Postponed proceeding resumed on Amendment to Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," which Amendment was to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
in the opinion of this House the fullest possible measure of voluntary co-operation
between management and workpeople is essential if productivity is to be increased and good industrial relations maintained as the national interest requires, and this House urges the Government to continue its efforts through the national organisations of employers, and workers to encourage the practice of joint consultation on matters of common interest to management and workpeople in the factory and workshop and the development of appropriate joint consultative machinery.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 7.9 p.m.
Mr. Ian Orr-Ewing
When we interrupted our proceedings to deal with other Business, I was addressing my remarks very largely towards the observations of the hon. Member for Rotherham who unfortunately has been deterred by other Business from remaining in his place, and therefore I must turn to the points raised in one of the most interesting speeches of the whole afternoon, that which we heard from the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Gunter).
The hon. Gentleman voiced another form of suspicion which can do much to destroy the valuable work of joint consultation—namely, the suspicion that if steps are taken jointly to increase the rate of productivity, the job will come to an end all too quickly and the workers themselves become redundant. The hon. Member suggested—and I do not think he exaggerated the existence of such fears—that these apprehensions were holding back representatives of the workers from, taking a more active part in joint consultative bodies.
I should have thought that with what one might call the slightest amount of education and help from the unions themselves, such fears could be overcome. I rather agreed with what was said by the hon. Member for Rotherham, and I do not think that anything in the nature of a "pep" talk from an employer is going to remove that fear. I believe it would be much more helpful if, as was suggested, a certain amount of work of an educational character were carried out by the unions themselves in order to dispel that sort of fear. After all, once the committee—whatever name is given to it—is set up, and if it is a practical one, it is exactly issues of this sort which will come before it.
1267 For some 25 years, long before the idea became fashionable, I played some part in joint consultative committees in industry. It is exactly those sorts of points and difficulties which can be explained in that way, and the facts put before both sides and laid openly on the table. Very often, indeed, suggestions come from most unexpected quarters and help to deal, for instance, with the very unpleasant business of redundancy or the shifting of people from one shop to another and so on. I believe it is only when such matters are openly discussed in joint consultative committees that those committees really reach their full value.
The very serious question which was posed of how far a joint consultative committee has the right to go is obviously a problem which we must face. I agree that such committees should go as far as they possibly can in probing into the interests of the firm. How far does that mean? I believe it is of interest to all those engaged in management and the workers to know what for instance is the effect of devaluation in relation to the obtaining of export orders. It is up to managements to disclose in the factory that other firms have possibly quoted better prices, and that an order has been refused or passed over, because it is when we are up against the effect of competition that all sides of a firm put their heads together and say, "We must do something about this and in some way reduce our costs." It is only by bringing people up against practical difficulties of that nature that we shall get a really practical approach to the problems confronting firms, which is so necessary if these joint consultative committees are to be of any value at all.
It has been said several times already this afternoon that joint consultation really existed at the beginning of the build-up of our industries in this country, and that we are now coming back into the era when no such system existed and, because it was not there, we rather tended to go back. I believe that we can revitalise and re-interest in a human way all those engaged in industry, so that we can go forward as a team.
There is another reason for great urgency in encouraging these committees and in seeing that they are practical bodies. One sees in the vast field of 1268 engineering—which in all its aspects covers a tremendous proportion of the total industry of this country—something very remarkable which has been taking place for the last 10 or 15 years. It is that the skill in the engineering works is being concentrated more and more at the two extreme ends of production. A tremendous amount of skill goes into preproduction methods and into the tool room, but the amount of skill now necessary at the bench and on the machine is nothing like what it used to be. A greater amount of skill is demanded at the end of the production line on assembly, because skill in industry tends to be concentrated more and more at the beginning and at the end.
The effect of that is going to be very serious unless we keep those who require less skill very strongly in the picture. Once they get the feeling that they do not matter quite so much, and that all the attention is being paid to either one end or the other, we shall be in a very unhealthy position. Therefore, it is important that that aspect should be carefully studied, and that fair representation should be guaranteed to every section of productivity in any works where joint consultation takes place.
I have only one further remark to make, because so much has already been so admirably said from both sides on the subject. First, I do not believe that on these committees we can think solely and simply of production problems in the mechanical sense. I believe that far more could be done through those committees—in the first instance and not at the end of the story—talking about the finished product. It is an extraordinary thing, but as one goes round the country visiting different firms one finds how very few people ever see the finished product at all. What an awful mistake that is. What an awful mistake it is that where the little piece goes is not pointed out and explained, so that the actual individual responsible for its manufacture finds himself, as it were, in the machine and in his part of it. If that sort of thing is properly dealt with, what a tremendous difference it makes.
It is to problems of this sort that I think joint consultative bodies should pay a great deal more attention. They should bring the product right back on to the bench in its finished form, and 1269 show where that hit of life which a man has put into his work fits into a machine which may be travelling right across the world and earning us valuable dollars, or otherwise helping us to live. The educational value of these committees to both sides of industry is realised more today than ever before. If we regard these committees as very largely educational bodies, whilst at the same time insisting that they must be absolutely practical and not just talking shops, we shall be building up a better, a more human and a more efficient standard in our industries in this country, and shall deserve very well of those who will take their place in the tremendous productive effort of this country, not only in the immediately coming months, but in later years.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
It is appropriate that the subject of today's Debate has followed so closely on the subject of yesterday's Debate, because the two, taken together, can provide us with an answer to most of our industrial problems. The industrial might of England was, I believe, built up on the capacity to produce capital equipment, and it is rather paradoxical to find, for instance, that the development areas, which were discussed yesterday, are also in close proximity to those areas which have always manufactured and developed capital goods. I believe that the first call upon the industry of our country will be upon its capacity to recapture its markets in capital goods. By so doing, we shall be able to build up permanent markets wherever we send our goods, and maintain our system of imports and re-exports.
I wish to deal, briefly, with the position of joint production committees as they affect chiefly the Engineering and Allied Employers' Federation. The whole range of industries covered by the Federation constitutes that portion of industry which will be in direct competition with other industries throughout the world. It is essential that the wheels should run as smoothly as possible in these industries. It is no surprise to me to find that joint production committees, as such, are becoming fewer in these industries. There is a reason for it, which I will explain later.
I want to deal, first, with the huge impetus given to and the mushroom development of joint production committees 1270 during the war years. There was a great drive for munitions, and, in all factories directly connected with munitions and instruments of war, production committees were most effective. Provisions relating to payment of wages and bonuses and the provision of welfare amenities were more elastic, perhaps, in those industries than in the older established light industries and in the engineering industries. The influence of the production committees has seriously declined in these industries since the cessation of hostilities. That decline has been felt throughout the whole range of the engineering industry. The reason for it was that the trade union movement in the engineering industry has always been firmly established and the shop stewards' committees and the joint shop stewards' committees have been something distinct and separate from the joint consultative production committees.
I believe it was in 1941, when the then Minister of Labour first instituted joint production committees, that the established shop stewards' committees gave them careful consideration. They decided to take part in them chiefly as a means of furthering the war effort. A great amount of good work was done, but eventually we found that they were coming to a full stop at the very time when they were just becoming really efficient and really sharing in the functions of management. At the end of the war those committees were told, in no uncertain terms, that management was the function of management and that they must always work within their terms of reference, which were strictly that they were advisory and consultative committees. That was the position, although all people engaged in industry today are not so engaged solely from the personal point of view but chiefly from the point of view that industry matters not only to the owners but to the workpeople, too. It is our life and our future.
We therefore sought executive powers in industry for the joint consultative production committees. They were not forthcoming. That is where this process has broken down. The shop stewards' committees contended that they had men of ability within their ranks who were capable of taking executive decisions and carrying those decisions through to the workers to final completion. We split 1271 upon the demand for the production of the order books and the account books, the policy on profits and the programme of capital investment. That is where we parted company. I maintain that the difficulties we shall encounter in world trade will be of such a character that, whether we do it now or in the future, we shall have to get together on the basis of the fullest co-operation. We shall have to put the cards really on the table with regard to every aspect of industry, including profits and the distribution of profits.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) is concerned with an industry which, I think, has always had 100 per cent. trade union membership. It has always paid the highest wages but even in his industry there has never been a joint development or consultative council on the lines I visualise. This industry has tremendous potentialities. I refer chiefly to its photogravure side. I believe that on this side we can give a lead and a beating to the Americans, but we have not the same markets as the Americans. It is on those kinds of things that we ought to have a development council, as distinct from the father of the chapel, day-to-day trade union procedure of the factory.
I want to join issue with the right hon. Gentleman on one point. I believe he mentioned that he was aware of some disruptive elements in industry which, from time to time, caused a certain amount of trouble by their tactics. I can assure him, in association with my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), that from that point of view these elements are practically non-existent. The good, solid trade unionists in industry have seen just where these elements were leading them and have decided to dispense with them in no uncertain manner.
This Debate has followed lines of "sweet reasonableness." We are all concerned with the future of our country. All sides of industry should make a real effort to get down to this problem. We can only do it by extending executive powers to the workers' representatives. If we do that, we shall begin to solve the problems associated with increased productivity and the maintenance of good industrial relations.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)
It is most encouraging to find the large amount of common ground disclosed on this most important subject today. I do not think I ever remember a Debate in which so many hon. Members from both sides of the House have sung their little songs in more pleasant harmony. I believe there was never a time when industrial relations in this country were better than they are at present. I believe, too, that progress has been made in this matter of joint consultation, even in the last few years. I know some of the seed has fallen on barren ground, but, on the other hand, some has come up and is really getting its roots in.
There are today many factors bearing on our economic recovery that are outside our control. Here is one right within our control. The question is whether we are doing everything we can to help things forward. The question of industrial relations is important for two reasons. The first is that if we want the greatest possible efficiency and productivity—and, of course, we do—then we must create conditions in which the human beings engaged in industry will give of their best. Industry, after all, is, in its most important sense, an enormous conglomeration of human beings. Secondly, there is the aspect of the happiness of the individual working in industry. Even with shorter hours and longer holidays we are all destined to spend more of our lives at work than anywhere else. Therefore, it is important to kill the notion that work must be drudgery. That is a defeatist attitude, and I ant sure that if everything we can do is done to increase interest and pride in the job, there is no earthly reason why that notion should persist.
We all realise the importance of productivity, but I feel that there is a special responsibility on us, as politicians, to say that we really want this scheme to succeed. We all have our own notions. Some of us believe in private enterprise: some of us believe in nationalisation, but we must face facts, and I think that the realistic and practical attitude which has been shown towards this question in this Debate is commendable. I would ask some hon. Members opposite to realise that private enterprise cannot function in an atmosphere of disparagement 1273 and doubt, and if it is denied the incentives on which it is based. I want to make it clear that I am throwing no bricks at the Minister of Labour. With great respect, I look on him as an excellent joint consulter, if I may use that phrase. We on this side, when once an industry has been nationalised and where it is clearly impracticable to denationalise it, must concentrate our whole efforts on doing everything we can to ensure that industry works as efficiently and happily as possible.
There is the old question which, in the past, has so bedevilled the situation, of the division of the proceeds of industry, but I am quite sure that if we concentrate on doing all we can to see that the facts are known and understood that problem is soluble. When people understand the facts they are sensible; in general, one does get sensible solutions when once the facts are understood. I refer to such matters as: how capital is raised, what it is used for, the functions of profits and, perhaps more important, the functions of management. Personally, I believe that profit-sharing is a good way of identifying interests.
One hon. Member opposite, earlier in the Debate, implied that there was something antagonistic between co-partnership and the trades unions. In any properly designed co-partnership scheme that is most certainly not the case. On this question of management there is a tendency in industry for the growth of management as a sort of third partner, between labour and capital. That, I think, will go much further, and I think it is perhaps hopeful, because management in its intermediate position can look at some of these matters in a rather more objective way than either labour or capital could do. I hope everything will be done to support the newly-established British Institute of Management, because that has a useful contribution to make.
I want now to refer to my own rather limited experience of joint consultation; it is limited because it has covered only a comparatively few years, but I am a sincere believer in it. I believe it is a most important experiment in industrial democracy and, on the whole, I do not think we need feel in any way disappointed with its results. It is not, of course, a panacea for all troubles. It will not in itself supply the driving force necessary, but it is a valuable lubricant 1274 to the whole industrial machine. It is really just a natural reflection of a sensible attitude. The old master-man relationship, which was all right in the last century, does not fit the situation today.
It is important that everybody in an organisation should be clear that there must always be order givers and order receivers, and the functions of the jobs of each should be clearly understood. Today, when people are given an order they like to be told why the order is given. The truth of that principle was discovered during the war. I think it was Field-Marshal Montgomery who always proceeded on the principle that he would rather run the risk of the enemy knowing of his plans than that his own troops should go into battle without knowing what was in his mind.
I am reminded of the old sergeant-major story. I have told the story before now, to show the wrong way of giving an order. An old sergeant-major was in charge of a medical inspection, and a man came to have his eyes examined. The sergeant-major said, "Go in the next room and take your clothes off." The man replied, "But I have only come to have my eyes seen to." The sergeant-major shouted, "That does not matter; go in the next room and take your clothes off." So the man went into the other room where he saw a little man sitting on a bench without any clothes on at all. Said the man, "The sergeant-major told me to come in here and take my clothes off, but I am only having my seyes seen to." The little man without any clothes on replied, "You are lucky, mate; I only came to deliver a telegram."
As far as my own experience goes, I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) said on this matter. First of all, consultation must be voluntary and spontaneous. Secondly, there must be absolute sincerity, and I agree that the initiative lies with the management. The management, in particular, must show that they really believe in this thing and mean to make it work. Then there must be no avoidable secrecy at all. Every bit of information that can be given should be given. Next, great patience is required. Sometimes people say that nothing except details are discussed. I agree that details are discussed, but I do not agree that in a well set up and well 1275 run joint consultation scheme only details are considered. Sometimes, too, things which at first sight appear to be details turn out, later, to be very far from details. But details do come into the matter.
I remember a discussion in a factory, where there had been an epidemic of mice, on whether the factory cat was really beginning to lose its grip. After that question was disposed of the meeting turned to something of great importance. To show that we do deal with things of importance sometimes, I would like to mention that in a factory with which I am connected we called a special meeting of the works committee to meet the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, and a very pleasant meeting it was. Another thing we sometimes hear is "This is only of interest to small numbers, to minorities." Do not let us make the mistake of under-estimating the value of catering for energetic and interested minorities, because they are often very important indeed. This is a thing of slow growth, but I believe it is beginning in many places to get its roots in and to prove of great value.
My own experience has taught me that joint consultation should be fostered most and first of all, at the lowest level. It is among the small intimate groups in the factories where the technique can best be learned, and from there it can easily be developed upwards. But it is quite difficult to make it go downwards if we start at the top and leave the lowest levels uncatered for. The results can be useful, especially in a two-way flow of information. I can only speak from the management point of view, but I do know that it can be most valuable and that one can learn from it a great deal that one could not learn in any other way.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Ian Orr-Ewing) in what he said about how often people in a factory do not know what is the finished product. In a factory in which I am interested we have tackled that problem by setting up something like a shop window inside the factory and in that window we put, every fortnight, a different product from the factory, describing all the departments which have contributed to it and how it has been made. I think that is one way in which this problem can be tackled.
1276 This two-way flow of information can lead to a steady growth of confidence which, in turn, leads to the thing which we want above everything else—a sense of common purpose. Sometimes I wonder whether there is anything in this direction which we can learn from the United States. I have been reading with great interest the reports of the Anglo-American Productivity Council and I think that the work they have been doing has been most useful. I doubt, however, whether there is much we can learn from America on joint consultation. In this country we can feel proud that we have the steadiest, most responsible, and most competent manpower in the world. In America I think they have the most alert manpower in the world, so there is something which we can teach each other.
This may be too much of a generalisation, but, I think there is one thing we can learn from America: they believe that, generally, a profitable industry is the one which can pay the highest remuneration to those who work in it, can give the most secure employment and, in general, too, can give the best service to the consumer. The person who seeks to earn a profit or to obtain higher wages by improving his skill is not, therefore, a person to be disparaged.
I believe that if these are the things we go for, then we shall do more than we can do in any other way to overcome our present difficulties. The absolute essentials are, first, responsible, efficient, vigorous and fair-minded management. That is the most important thing of all in industry and, in turn, it depends on following the principle of promotion by merit and by nothing else. Second, we must have the right incentives at all levels. Third, we must have a very high standard of individual responsibility and self-discipline, again at all levels, because without that no business can produce efficient results. Next, we want more productivity-mindedness, and that is a difficult thing to learn; and, last—and here it is that joint consultation can help tremendously—a sense of common purpose.
If we can have these things everything will fall into shape; if we will forget our old squabbles and, with a sincere will, work together, we shall have the best industrial relations in the world and we then need have no fear for our industrial future, whatever difficulties lie ahead.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
I find myself in almost complete agreement with the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) although, if I have the time, I may deal later with one or two of the points he made. In particular, I want to say that from experience I thoroughly agree with him in his view that the whole idea of industrial relationships is essentially a British product. It is better understood in this country than anywhere else in the world, as far as I know. I have tried to lecture on this subject in other countries, but I have found it most difficult to get them to understand how the two sides of industry can co-operate in some of these matters.
Indeed, so many expressions of unanimity have been uttered in this Debate today that my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) must be a little worried as to whether he was justified in bringing this Amendment before the House, and as to whether he has been wasting our time. For my part I do not think he has been wasting our time because, although the wording of his Amendment might very well be accepted today without a Division and with a great deal of lip service from all parts of the House, I am bound to say that in my experience as a trade union official I am not quite so satisfied about the position as many hon. Members seem to be. There is no doubt at all that in many quarters a facade of these joint consultative committees is being set up which has no real substance behind it. In many cases the functions of the committees have been deliberately limited.
So far as the spirit behind this work is concerned, I still have painful recollections of a Debate in the last Parliament when a remark was made from the other side of the Chamber to the effect that any employer who took part in the work of a development council would be regarded as a Quisling. When we come to discuss this question we must not ignore the fact that such a spirit still exists. I hope that today's Debate, if it has done nothing else, will have led to a little more agreement on the subject and perhaps to fewer remarks being made of the kind which I have just quoted—remarks which could cause difficulties in the future.
This technique—one could almost call it a science—of industrial relationship has 1278 been growing for a long time—far too long; and the process, as other hon. Members have said, is far too slow. It is 30 years since Mr. Whitley produced his reports giving the country a fairly complete scheme, a three-tiered structure with joint industrial councils at the national level, joint district committees and works committees. In those reports at that time he visualised the fairly rapid adoption of machinery of that kind. He was very optimistic as to its development and in its final report his Committee said:We believe that when joint councils have gained confidence and experience in dealing with the urgent problems of the moment they will find their sphere of usefulness to be much wider than they themselves imagined at their first inception.Unfortunately, that prophecy has not been borne out. There was a fairly rapid development during the war, but then there always is a rapid development of desirable things during a war, when people are prepared to waive their prejudices either from motives of patriotism or from motives of fear:When the Devil was sick, the Devil a monk would beWhen the Devil was well, the Devil a monk was he.My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) pointed out that at the end of the war there was a very quick run down of the joint production committees which had been so successful during the war.
I turn now to the state of affairs at the present time. I want to ask the Minister whether he will not bring out an up-to-date edition of the industrial relations handbook. I have already asked for this by a Question in the House. The last edition was in 1944, and we ought to have a more up-to-date edition than that. That book shows that there is very great complexity in the machinery in the different industries. There is nothing against that, because British industry is like that. Every industry is different; its conditions and its history are different and, naturally, the machinery which has developed for the peculiar problems of particular industries varies from industry to industry. I have nothing against that at all, but we ought to have an up-to-date book so we may know exactly what the position is at the moment.
My experience in this field has been confined to the railway service. There, 1279 there has been a change and a change for the better. One hon. Member on the other side of the House mentioned that when an industry is nationalised, things so from bad to worse—
§ Mr. Hynd
—so far as consultative machinery and the trade unions are concerned, and of course, we have die-hards like the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, who can still say "Hear, hear." However, it is not really the case at all, because since the railways have been nationalised, although we had negotiating machinery and consultative councils on the railways before nationalisation, an even better scheme has been developed. It is a scheme at the national level, and at the station level; in which not only all the ordinary, normal functions of these committees but matters of management are dealt with, though that is not to say the workers manage the industry.
§ Mr. Charles Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? Will he tell me if he has read the Journal of the National Union of Railwaymen for January? Because there is an article there criticising very strongly the nationalisation picture.
§ Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)
Will the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. Orr-Ewing) tell us what union he belongs to?
§ Mr. C. Orr-Ewing
Certainly, since the hon. Gentleman asks. I belong to the Association of Scientific Workers, and here is my card.
§ Mr. Hynd
After that very gallant recruiting effort by my hon. Friend, let 1280 me continue by saying that whatever criticism may have appeared in the N.U.R. Journal, it is quite open to any union or body of workers to criticise the machinery, and I would not for a moment pretend to 'believe or to state that this machinery is perfect. Not at all. I could probably criticise it myself. However, the fact remains that for the first time there is a new development under which the railway unions are represented at the national level on a committee which deals with managerial functions. At the station level the workers are to be taken into consultation, and before a new policy is introduced they will be consulted about it, and if the management cannot see their way to adopt the suggestions of the workers they are given the reason why. That is a big step forward since nationalisation.
Hon. Members may also be interested, if they care to follow up this matter, if I refer them to the March edition, the current number, of the Ministry of Labour Gazette, where they will see an explanation of the new machinery in the gas industry. There, the scope, so far as I can see, is even wider than it is in the railway industry. It deals not only with the development of the industry, and wages, hours and working conditions, but goes on to deal with health, welfare, efficiency in the operation of the services, the settlement of disputes, inventions, improvements in machinery and methods, new entrants into the industry, apprenticeship and training, statistics and information, the arrangements of lectures and the holding of conferences, and all that sort of thing.
§ Squadron-Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us whether it also deals with the question of profit sharing in the gas industry?
§ Mr. Hynd
It does not, because it is not related to it, that is all. I dare say the question of profit sharing could be discussed under one of those headings such as methods of working in the industry, or wages and conditions; but I am not prepared to give an interpretation of that at the moment. It is quite possible, but I am not concerned with it, because I do not think it is related to 1281 the argument I am using. My point is that in the nationalised industries, far from their having been deterioration in this matter, there has been a very distinct improvement, to the advantage of the workers, and possibly to the advantage of the industries.
The chief difficulty in this question is, Where do we draw the line? Various speakers have skated round this point. How can the workers be taken into consultation and how far must managements manage? Now, a final answer to that question has still to be found. It is a big problem; it is occupying the minds of the trade unions and, I hope, of the employers' organisations at this moment, because the answer has got to be found to that question before long. It may only come by means of trial and error, Probably it will. We usually do get the answers to these questions by methods of that kind in this country. However, I hope a suitable answer will be found before very long because until it is found we cannot get the ideal form of consultative machinery that, I think, we all want.
If there is any fault at all in the machinery in the nationalised industries at present it is, as, I think, another hon. Member indicated, in the fact that there are too many of the managerial people who have been taken over from the former regime who have still got the old ideas and who have not yet learned how to act as managers of publicly owned industries. They still tend, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) mentioned, to occupy the middle places—not at the top, but in the middle; and there we have people who still tend to treat the committees with suspicion and to use them to the minimum extent instead of to the maximum. That has to be broken down, and I believe that it is being broken down.
Lest it should be thought that I am too prejudiced in regard to the nationalised industries I should like to pay a tribute to a scheme that I came across in private industry. That was in Vauxhall Motors at Luton, where they have an excellent scheme of joint consultation which I think ought to be a model to many other employers in this country.
With regard to the scope of the machinery. Several hon. Members have already talked about making the com- 1282 mittees really responsible—not just using them for all the awkward questions or minor matters of welfare. If they are given real responsibility I think that in most cases they will rise to the occasion.
§ Mr. Osborne
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what he means by "real responsibility," if they are not to take over the functions of management?
§ Mr. Hynd
Yes. I meant much more important things than canteen questions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Let me give an example from practical experience in London Transport. There they draw out lines of promotion—things of that kind, giving them a large amount of responsibility. That is just the first example coming to my mind. No doubt many other and better examples could be quoted. We pat ourselves on the back about the development of this machinery, but I think there is another side to the medal.
Despite the fact that it is 30 years since Whitley brought out his report and it is 20 years since the T.U.C. urged closer consultation, which they followed up with the Turner-Mond talks in 1928, even today we have in certain sections of industry die-hard employers who will just not face up to this matter. I am going to give an example, which was the subject of a Question to the Minister of Labour the other day about a bank, the Banque Belge pour I'Etranger where they have 70 per cent. of the staff—
§ Mr. Hynd
As usual. I have not got the figure with me, but speaking from memory I think it is something like 160. Anyway, the fact is that they have some 70 per cent. of the staff in membership, and yet the bank is refusing point-blank to give them anything like trade union recognition. What this bank is doing is what so many employers have been doing—and this is what we in the trade union movement complain about bitterly—is setting up what we call a "house committee"—by-passing the trade union movement and getting people inside the office or the factory to mobilise under the wing of the boss. Now that is not proper 1283 trade union recognition; it is not bona fide consultation, and it is quite wrong of hon. Members opposite to support that kind of thing, if they do. It is no good paying tribute to the disciplined and well-balanced trade unions on the one hand, and undermining their position by this kind of thing on the other. That is both wrong and dangerous.
I thoroughly agreed with the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) when he drew attention to the phrase "voluntary co-operation" in the Amendment. Although I have mentioned the example of this bank, it does not mean that I am asking the Minister to impose anything compulsorily, because that would be futile. However, there is no doubt that the Minister can use a great deal of influence, and public opinion can be brought to bear against employers of that kind, to ensure that they back up the more enlightened employers and give the trade union recognition to which their staff are entitled.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) when he suggests that one of the essentials for such a committee is that the factory manager must always be in the chair. I suggest that it would be better for the chair to be occupied alternately by a representative of the management and a representative of the workers, as is done in certain industries. I believe that in that way much smoother working can be effected, and there would be much better relations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Gunter) made some remarks with which to my regret, I find myself in considerable disagreement. I am sorry he is not here when I say this, but he went out of his way to lecture the trade unions, and said they ought to educate their officials more in this matter; that they ought to polish up their machinery and deal with the whole subject in a much more efficient way. That is all very well so far as it goes, but the implication is that the stumbling block is always the trade union, which is certainly not the case. I believe that in nearly every case where those difficulties arise it is the workers who are putting on the pressure and the management who are putting up the opposition. If there is to be education of trade union officials, then I respectfully suggest that there is at least as much justification for education of 1284 managerial representatives in the science of industrial relations. In saying "at least as much justification," I am putting it as mildly as I can. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster said, that this is all the more necessary because there will be further developments in the science of industrial relations. There is a great future for it, and a great deal of study will have to be given to it if we are to achieve the proper results.
In my opinion, the key to the whole matter, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), is the question: What is the purpose of setting up such a committee? That is the question to which we ought to apply ourselves. I would say that on the part of the management the purpose is to have better relationships with the workers, more efficiency, and to avoid trouble at the source. On the part of the workers, the reason for being on such committees is to have a greater say in their industry, to help in its efficiency, to see that they get a proper return for their labour, and also to avoid industrial disputes. Workers do not want industrial disputes; they try to avoid them as far as possible, and this is one of the best ways of doing so. But there is a further purpose. In the past the worker has too often been regarded as a number on the books. Too often have we seen the notice at the factory gate "No hands wanted" or "Hands wanted" as the case may be—although the latter much less frequently. The word "hands" embodies a conception of the workers which has been a great irritant in industrial relationships. If we get the joint consultation that we desire we can get away from that conception altogether and make the worker feel that he is a self-respecting human being.
It has also been discovered, by both sides I believe, that when there is proper consultation it is of real benefit to them. The enlightened employer has found that it has paid him to go to a lot of trouble to get the right kind of consultation. Many employers have found that the workers who do the job do know something about it; that they have brains as well as hands; and the employer has benefited accordingly. On the other side the workers have discovered that the employer has some justification when he talks about financial difficulties, supply 1285 difficulties, or bottlenecks of various kinds. Accordingly, both sides have benefited. It will be a good investment for my right hon. Friend if he spends more on the development of joint consultative machinery. It will be an investment which will pay handsome dividends in the form of fewer industrial disputes. Industrial disputes are very expensive to the nation's economy, and it will be beneficial economically to spend a little more money on developing industrial relationships, thereby avoiding a tremendous amount of industrial trouble.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I should like to follow up the remarks of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), who had to take a foreign bank as an example of the employer he had in mind.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
May I correct the hon. Gentleman? Although the bank has a foreign name, it is British-controlled.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I would say further that it has a very small number of employees. I would support my hon. Friend when he says the number is under 100.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I understand that although it has the name of a Belgian bank, it is the British branch of that Belgian bank. I apologise if I misrepresented the hon. Gentleman.
I shall not keep the House long, and I want to draw attention quite briefly to three matters. We have had from my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) a reference—with which I am sure hon. Members on both sides will agree—to the relative smoothness of production which has occurred since 1945. We are now coming to the end of that period. It has been relatively easy to have pleasant conditions and understanding between management and men in the conditions which have existed in the postwar period, but there are three valid reasons why those conditions are now coming to an end.
First, we have the impact of the buyers' market and the free winds of competition which will blow as a result. Secondly, we have the need to substitute materials, probably from non-dollar sources, as we 1286 try to close the dollar gap. Thirdly, I have no doubt that we shall see an extension of the principle under the Atlantic Pact whereby different Powers accept responsibilities for different portions of the defence programme. We have already seen a case in this country where contracts were cancelled and the Americans undertook to supply B29s.
We are coming to a period between now and 1952—and I am sure that there can be no difference of opinion on this matter—when we may have interruptions in the smoothness of production. Surely, that is the exact period when the troublemakers—I refer, in particular, to the Communist Party—will seize on the difficulties of industrial firms to make trouble. I suggest that if we do not bring in joint consultation as rapidly as possible before this state of affairs develops, there will be really serious trouble and the productivity which we are all anxious to see increased more and more will fall right away as the result of Communist efforts. The sooner we get our joint production councils going in the most efficient manner, the safer will be the future and the smoother will be the production which we all desire.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Hale (Rochdale)
The tone of the House seems to be that there is a great feeling of agreement on this matter of joint consultation. It is not deliberately that I strike a note which is not actually in keeping with the tone of the Debate up to the moment. I believe that we are in great danger of overstressing the case of joint industrial consultation in this sense, that while it is a method of settling difficulties within industry and has served a very useful purpose up to now, we would be wise to understand that every employer who has introduced this method into his works does not necessarily subscribe voluntarily to the view that joint consultation is the best way of running his industry. It is rather that many employers bow to the weight of opinion. I think that those people are the people who are dangerous to the continuance of this method.
I come from an engineering industry where, during the war years at any rate, joint consultation did work to the benefit of both sides of the industry. Since the war, I have entered another field of the 1287 engineering industry, and I think that very often the employer is only prepared to discuss matters which are of trivial importance to the workers, matters which very often are an insult to the intelligence of educated men within the industry.
Let us realise that in these days the major part of the adult workers in an engineering establishment are educated almost up to the same level as the manager. Very often the manager has been drawn from the ranks, not because of superior technical knowledge but because he has a personality which enables him to run the men in a way which causes the least antagonism. I have found, as the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) said, that often when we get round the table in joint consultation, the only matter that the management are prepared to discuss is whether the tea is sweet enough or whether some other trivial matter of that character is pleasing the rank and file in the workshop.
Surely we have reached a stage in our industrial development when we can go far beyond that in this matter of joint consultation. I agree with many hon. Members opposite that it would be dangerous if we abused the powers of the trade unions by these joint committees. I am one of the people who do not wish to usurp the functions of the management side. I have always believed in the rate for the job, and if the manager gets paid for it, he is going to do his job. That does not mean that I am not prepared, and that people like myself in industry are not prepared, to co-operate with the management to the joint benefit of the industry and of the country as a whole.
The firm which I recently worked for had developed this consultation to something of a fine art. I have seen in that factory great changes since the management began to yield a little to the pressure put upon them from the workers' side. As has been said in this Debate, suspicion often exists on both sides when this matter of joint consultation is first introduced into industry. The manager feels that these fellows are going to run the place for him, and the workers feel that they are going to be used for the more unsavoury functions of management. There is little doubt that, if taken into the confidence of the managers, the 1288 workers are prepared to make sacrifices so that their industry may survive in these difficult times.
It may be, and it most probably is, the fact that industry in this country will have to face far greater competition in the days to come than it is experiencing at the moment. The workers realise that their future is bound up with a particular industry just as is that of the employers. I feel that together they can make real strides in putting their respective industries in a position to compete when the heat is turned on in the competitive field. But what are the rewards going to be? It is quite true that, however much we may have been educated and however much we may have learned from industry, there is in the best of us something of the materialist. We are all prepared in times of crisis to give service to our country but that does not, or should not, blind us to the fact that most people on both sides of industry desire, and are determined to have, material reward for their services. Joint consultation can go a long way towards solving that problem, too.
I recollect sitting in a joint industrial council where the workers in a particular industry complained—and this is not a rare complaint in these days—about the huge, profits being made out of their industry. They determined that these profits were being made largely at the expense of the people employed in that industry. What actually happened was that they had gone to a shop and seen on sale one of the commodities their factory produced. By adding two and two together, they found that that commodity cost only 1s. 1½d. to manufacture; in fact, it turned out later that the management sold to the distribution side of the industry for 1s. 1½d., and the workers got themselves into a great state of agitation because they were asked to pay 9s. in the shop for the same product which had left their hands at so reasonable a price.
I think that in matters such as that, there is a large field in which, by consulting round the table, management and workers can find out what is in each other's minds. I am convinced that as soon as they find out what is in other's minds, neither side will not take on the rather threatening attitude which they sometimes appear to adopt. The hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) belongs to a branch of industry which, 1289 judging from what he said this afternoon, has made strides in this direction of joint consultation. Perhaps he falls into the same error as many of us by thinking that just because he behaves in a particular fashion towards his industry, so does everyone else. That, of course, is not true.
Joint consultation can be brought into no greater discredit than by being operated by people who do not really believe in it. The Minister would do well to consider, even if it means expenditure, what steps he can take to further this method of settling differences within industry. I am not being ungrateful when I say that the possibilities of this method have not yet been reached. Although this is something that was introduced some 30 years ago, it is still in its infancy. If the employer's side of industry adopt the same attitude as Members opposite have shown today towards this question, and the workers take the same view as has been expressed from this side of the House, I feel sure that we shall go a long way towards running industry in a model way.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
I have been particularly struck by the tone of this Debate. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the question of profits in industry at the present time. I agree that a great deal of education of trade union officials and their members is required on this matter. As I have said before in this House, it is the job and responsibility of all trade union officials to be able to understand a company's balance-sheet, so that they can go through it with the management and ask for any elucidation on points that puzzle them. It has been suggested that some of these matters are secret, but the bulk of industry is run at present by public companies which publish their balance-sheets annually, either as a balance-sheet or in the financial journals. It is only a small section of industry that is operated by private concerns.
§ Mr. Diamond (Manchester, Blackley)
Has the hon. Member ever taken the trouble to see how much information is published in these public company balance-sheets, particularly in regard to the trading accounts in which the workers are interested, or will he accept it from me that in most cases the amount of information is nil?
§ Mr. Drayson
I would not agree with that at all. It is clearly laid down under the Companies Act what information shall be given, and as a result of the Cohen Report, far greater information is being given now that in years gone by. It is only on the details on the trading side, which might be of use to competitors, that managements exercise discretion in the amount of information they are able to give to their employees. By all means let questions be asked if the matter is being considered under joint consultation, but in the interests of individual firms there must be items which cannot be disclosed by the management who are responsible. After all, if a company is not doing very well it might be very useful information for a competitor to have.
Few people realise that the largest shareholder and participant in any business is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who takes not only 9s. in the pound, but an additional 2s. as Profits Tax and a further amount by way of a distributed profits tax if the company pays a dividend. It must be borne in mind, in going through the earnings of a company, that reserves have to be built up for a rainy day and that a large amount is necessary for re-equipment. Trade unionists have a tremendous responsibility in this respect.
Anyone who is engaged in industry and employs a few hundred people, cannot help feeling that he has a great responsibility, apart from the responsibility to the shareholders who have financed the industry, towards those who are working in the industry. The managements feel they have a responsibility to see that the industry is kept on a profitable basis, and that the livelihood of the workers is secured. The trade unionist has an even greater responsibility. Whereas management may be responsible for a few hundred workers, the officials of the trade unions are responsible for the wellbeing of literally millions of people engaged in industry. Therefore, trade union officials should not only understand production problems, but also the financial matters with which companies are concerned.
Wages have been repeatedly referred to in this Debate. I should like to say how distressing it is to see unions putting forward claims for increased wages which 1291 they say will come out of profits, when they know perfectly well that the profits are not there. They can perfectly well ascertain what are the profits of a particular industry.
§ Mr. Drayson
A little research will reveal the figures If the figures are not available, any intelligent person can probably fill in the gaps. One of the functions of accountants and financial experts is to assess these matters; by a little intelligent deduction they can arrive at a reasonable estimate of what is going on. Let us take the claim which is being put forward in the ship-building industry at present. I imagine that there are 600,000 people employed in the industry. They are asking for an increase of £1 a week, making a total increase of £30 million a year. It is possible that the profits of the shipbuilding industry, after allowing for replacements, depreciation and taxation, are between £3 million to £5 million.
§ Mr. Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
Does the hon. Member realise that taxation is only on realised profits, and that if greater wages are paid, the profits will not be liable to so much taxation—since the profits will be smaller?
§ Mr. Drayson
I hope the hon. Member will put that point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope he will ask him what he proposes to do to maintain his revenue if the profits of industry disappear. It will mean that he cannot rely on producing millions of pounds to keep the Social Services and the other benefits going.
The point I want to emphasise is that I wish that the unions would accept responsibility for going thoroughly into this matter, for understanding what they are talking about, for deciding what is a reasonable profit and what is an excessive profit. Nobody on this side of the House is in favour of excessive profits. Let us at least decide what is a reasonable figure and see what can be achieved, and not present claims which place too great a strain on industry so that it cannot either build up the reserves which it needs for difficult times or re-equip itself to compete with more up-to-date countries like America.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
At this late hour I will not follow the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) in his revelations in accountancy, desirable though such a course may be. I support the Amendment because I have had the privilege of seeing joint consultation in practice and of attending works committees in a considerable number of firms and in various industries. There is, clearly, today a great divergence in both the practice and achievement of firms, not only in different industries, but between different firms within the same industry. While we can talk tonight only in general terms and not go into the details of individual firms, I should like to point out that there is no type or model of joint consultation which is suitable for all types and sizes of firm.
In this connection I am reminded of the experience of an American trade unionist in Japan, immediately after the war. The Japanese established trade unions on Western models and soon there were a great number of strikes. One day a Japanese employer came to the trade union adviser and said, "I cannot tolerate the situation any longer. My men constantly shout rude names at me"—a great indignity to a Japanese employer—"as I walk down the street." He said, "They are on strike, but I do not mind that. They get their wages every week and I have provided a room for the strike committee, but now they are even complaining of the free food I send them every day to their canteen." Clearly, there is a difficulty if one tries to superimpose on social and economic conditions a structure which is not suitable. We must be careful, therefore, about saying that there is a particular pattern of joint consultation which will serve all purposes.
Before coming to the discussion of general principles we should know quite clearly what are the objectives of joint consultation. One can only give a personal opinion about this matter. I believe in joint consultation, on the short-term basis, at any rate, for two reasons: first, because it will, I believe, enhance the status of the worker, and secondly, because it can lead to increased production and industrial efficiency, which we need so desperately today.
In this Debate the difference underlying the unanimity which we have seen from 1293 both sides of the House is that we on this side believe that we must first enhance the status of the worker and give him a participation in the decisions that govern his working life, as a result of which increased productivity will follow. Hon. Members opposite are stressing the scientific management attitude, which is putting the matter the other way round.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I do not believe that the hon. Member wishes to misrepresent what has been said from this side. I was actually the first to refer to the status of the worker, quoting from the Industrial Charter.
§ Mr. Mulley
I was not referring to the right hon. Gentleman particularly, but the terms "man management" and "smoothness of industrial relations" have been constantly used from the benches opposite and I am sure he will not take responsibility for everything said on that side of the House.
We need mass production today, but that mass production must mean a decline in craftsmanship and the pride and interest in work which went with it. We have a technical solution, but not yet a human solution to this problem. Many workers are today no more than the cogs in the machines they operate. I think it a distressing fact that men and women who, in private life, are responsible citizens and who, outside the factory, enjoy full political rights and, maybe, have great responsibilities, at work, where they spend a great portion of their lives, are no more than a mere clock number. While full employment has done much to enhance the self-esteem of the worker, and he no longer fears the sack and its dire economic consequences as he used to, joint consultation can go further in raising the status of workers in industry.
I also believe that it can solve, or contribute to the solution of, the new problems in industrial relations that are inevitable under full employment. It may be said that many workers do not want responsibility and that they are quite content with the monotony of mass production. While I will not dispute that, there is in every factory and working group some people who have something to contribute. Those people will become the natural leaders of that group and 1294 joint consultation can not only utilise their contribution but enable them to change the attitude of the workers in the group, who may not themselves be so interested in industrial democracy.
What is the effect of joint consultation on production? I believe that the mere opportunity to participate in, or at any rate to understand the reasons for, decisions in the factory will of itself bring increased output. In the famous Hawthorne experiment, the simple fact that the girls who were in the experiment were the centre of interest and the centre of importance in the factory was sufficient to increase output, despite a deliberate worsening of the environmental conditions in which they worked. The atmosphere or climate of work is an important factor in increased productivity. Statistically, it is difficult to prove, because one cannot separate the factor of joint consultation from the many other factors involved in the total situation, but it has been given to me by managers of firms where there is very good joint consultation that over the years increases of 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. in output have been built up by joint consultation.
From personal observation I have noted that in one or two factories where joint consultation is particularly good the workers work until the end of the working day, whereas in many cases effective work ends 10 or 15 minutes before the end of the working day. I have also noted that in some factories where joint consultation is a success the works director is in the factory at seven o'clock in the morning and not, as is often the case, at nine or 10 o'clock. Frequently, there is improvement in labour turnover figures in factories where joint consultation is successful and, by suggestion schemes, the whole creative ability of the organisation is harnessed to production. In some cases very striking results have been achieved. What I think is equally important is that the opportunity of participation given to workers enables them to understand managerial methods and fits them for positions of greater responsibility.
One can sum up the effect of joint consultation on production by a simple example. A gang of men was sent to dig holes in the ground. When they 1295 reached a certain depth someone came along, had a look and told them to fill the hole again and dig somewhere else. As the afternoon went on their rate of digging became slower and slower, and one man, bolder than the rest, asked what the object of the exercise was. He was told, "We are looking for some buried treasure in this piece of waste land." With that knowledge their output went up considerably. That is an extreme example, but I am sure that there are thousands of people working in industry today who do not know what contribution they are making to the finished product of the factory, and many who do not even know what the finished product is.
I am sorry I have spoken for so long upon one aspect, and in turning to general principles I will be brief. I believe that to set up a committee alone is to do nothing. It is no use having a committee unless it is backed by the good will and the desire of both sides to make it work. While the committee system is necessary in large works the fact of having a joint production committee or a works committee does not mean that there is joint consultation. If joint consultation is being started let there be joint consultation about the method of joint consultation there is to be. I would emphasise that. If a committee is imposed by national agreement, or by the employers or even by the trade unions, it will not necessarily succeed.
Among the conditions for success I would suggest, first, that before there is joint consultation between management and men there must be an effective system of consultation within the ranks of management itself. There must be the same channel of communication between the top of the management structure and the junior executive as is desired between management and workers. As other hon. Members have said, particular attention needs to be paid to the foreman, who is in a particularly difficult situation in industry today. He is too often between the upper grindstone of higher authority and the lower grindstone of enforcing discipline. I feel sure that to get an effective organisation there must be some way of fitting the foreman into the picture so that he does not learn of management decisions from members of the joint consultation committee who are probably 1296 people working under him on the floor of the shop.
Second, I would stress the necessity, if there is to be joint consultation, of bringing all workers in the organisation into the system—clerks administrative workers, scientific workers. Everyone who is in the organisation should be represented somewhere in the set-up. Third, and I think that this is perhaps the key point, no topic should be barred. That includes accounts and profits, and what is more important than the mere availability of the accounts is that questions on the accounts and profits should not only be put but answered.
I recall a managing director, who had great success in this field, saying that the very first question put to him was, "What is your salary?" He knew perfectly well that the success or failure of the system depended on a straight and truthful answer; and I believe that no topic should be barred in the discussions at joint consultation committees.
Fourth, I believe that the agenda must be interesting and varied. It is the responsibility of the management to provide that agenda. The representatives of the workers cannot put down items involving a change of company policy, or the introduction of new machinery, because they do not know about that until it happens. It is up to the management to put down items ahead of the actual contemplated date of change, so that discussion can take place in advance. I am sure that absenteeism and complaints about cold tea—two points from the two sides which are inevitably on the agenda of unsuccessful committees—is in itself responsible for the lack of interest and the breakdown of those committees. Very often there are committees dealing very successfully with the problem of redundancy and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), quoted an example from the March edition of "Business." I think hon. Members will be interested to know that the firm in question was the firm for which the late Mr. Cobb was responsible. In mourning his tragic death we may also hope that that experiment will continue as a monument to his work and interest in this subject.
Fifth, I would like to see, a general rule, the managing director, the "boss" in the eyes of the ordinary worker, 1297 present at meetings of the committee. I do not think it matters whether he is in the chair or not, but there must be someone present who can, if necessary, make speedy decisions and give a rapid answer. Sixth, as hon. Members have said, there must be no attempt to substitute joint consultation for trade unionism. I consider that the reason why the Whitley committees in the past did not succeed was very largely because in many cases they were used by employers as a substitute for trade unionism, by company unions and similar devices. As a final general principle I would suggest that there must be an adequate method of information or reporting back, so that every worker in the factory, if he wishes, can find out what goes on in the factory committees which comprise joint consultation. I believe that for successful working there must be a great education both of management and of men.
I would support my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Gunter) in his plea to trade unions to spend more money on education and research. Probably the Minister could help in this direction. He provides an excellent advisory service to those firms interested in setting up joint consultation, but I wonder if he would consider the possibility of providing a simple course on the objects of joint consultation, on the same lines as his excellent course on Training Within Industry. I know that would be appreciated by many people who are working in this field. I think, also, that there should be more courses in the technical colleges which would enable workers to learn the rudiments of industrial administration, and, what is equally or perhaps more important, courses which would enable the management to learn the rudiments of industrial relations and trade union structure.
Pioneer work in this direction has been done by the Industrial Administration Department of the Birmingham Technical College, and elsewhere, and I hope that employers, trade unions and the Minister will encourage the provision of these courses. A lot could be done to improve the publicity of successful joint consultation systems, to arrange exchange visits between firms for a pooling of ideas and to collate information; and I think the Minister could help in this direction. The Human Factors Panel of the Lord President's Committee on Industrial 1298 Productivity has been working for some time in this field, and I understand that soon it will be making its report. I hope that that kind of work will continue.
I believe that, given honest endeavour on both sides, joint consultation can achieve increased social status and increased productivity. It does pay. Managers have told me that, financially, they could not afford to be without joint consultation now they have got the system to work. For the workers it has meant more remuneration and, what is more important, a new interest and stature in their work. But it brings new responsibilities, both to management and to the trade union movement. These must be faced. It must be recognised that it is limited in purpose and, inevitably, slow in development. It is not, and it cannot be, a panacea for all industrial ills. It must take time to break down the frustration and suspicion which has grown up in industry over a great number of years. We cannot expect spectacular results in a short time. Indeed, unless there is patience and a desire to learn on both sides, especially on the part of management, we shall make no progress in this matter at all.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) was making his maiden speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If he had been, I was about to congratulate him on having the good fortune to deal with a subject which, obviously, he has studied deeply; but, all the same, I will congratulate him on talking a lot of good sense. I know that he talked a lot of good sense, because I agreed with a lot of what he said. We on this side of the House are very glad indeed that this subject has been raised, and we are very pleased to hear what a great wealth of support there is for the principle of co-partnership from the benches opposite.
§ Mr. Gammans
It often seems to us on this side of the House that hon. Gentlemen opposite are shooting at targets that no longer exist with smoothbore blunderbusses firing wet ammunition. But today we have had a great degree of unanimity, certainly on the problem that faces industry. I want to 1299 introduce a controversial note, not in any bitter carping sense, because I think it is desirable that we should not only realise where we agree but also where we disagree.
I think we all agree on what is the problem that faces industry today. It was well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), in a very agreeable maiden speech, when he said that what we were trying to do was to adjust the relationship between employer and employed in an age where, for good or for evil, large-scale production is now the rule rather than the exception. It is no good carping about that. For motor cars, textiles and shipbuilding, the large-scale unit of production has come to stay. It has raised our standard of living; but what a price we have had to pay for it. The price we have had to pay is the loss, very largely, of craftsmanship and the loss of human interest in creative work. I suppose it is true to say that, for many millions of our people, life in the full sense only starts when the factory gates shut.
The problem which faces all of us is how we are to humanise this civilisation. Here we come to a point of controversy. The Socialist Party have believed, I think sincerely, that one could humanise this civilisation by nationalization—or must I now call it socialisation? They really believed that men would find a new sense of social purpose in working for the State, and that service to the community would transcend in their minds any thought of gain. Nationalisation has been based on the fallacy that men will work hard without thought of reward, or fear of what happens to them if they do not, and also on the fallacy that the State has a soul which can appeal to a man's conscience.
We on this side of the House contend that nationalisation has failed, and, certainly, I think many hon. Members opposite, if they will not go as far as that, will at least agree that it has not lived up to expectations. We say that it has failed in what is, after all, the most vulnerable point from the aspect of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that is in human and labour relations. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) waxed very eloquent about the effect of nationalisation on the railways, but one of my hon. Friends reminded him of what was written in the 1300 "Railway Review" for January. I myself have discovered what was written in that magazine last October, when we were told this:Never was there a time when discontent was so rampant as it is today on the railways. Never was there a time when lack of interest was so rife. The first and most important thing that is wrong is the gradual development of a soulless dehumanising and individuality-killing atmosphere that prevails all over the railway system in these days.I do not think that anything we have said from this side of the House was ever as bad as that. I remember also what an hon. Member said about the effect of nationalisation on the workers in his constituency. If we want any further proof, we need only take note of the large number of unofficial strikes in the nationalised industries in the last two years.
Our contention is that the experiment into which hon. Gentlemen opposite entered with regard to labour relations when they put all their money on nationalisation has certainly not lived up to expectations. In this great experiment, the Socialists have acquired two curious allies—the trade unions and the co-operative societies. The reason why they are such curious allies is because nothing is more certain than that, if there were a completely Socialist State, both trade unionism and the co-operative movement would disappear. There would be no place for either of them in a completely Socialist State, and for that reason it is curious that the Socialist Party should have acquired these two allies. In many countries of the world, and in America, for example, trade unionism has not gone Socialist or even political. The American trade unions will not touch nationalisation with a barge pole.
It is our contention that a split between Socialism, on the one hand, and the trade unions and co-operatives societies, on the other, is absolutely inevitable. It certainly will not come from the trade unionists in this House. I admit that they have a vested interest in Socialism and in Socialist patronage. It will not come from here, but it will come from below in the movement. Indeed, I found in the recent General Election that nothing caused more anger at a meeting than to remind listeners that 11 trade union secretaries had got jobs in nationalised industries at salaries of £3,000 a year or more. I was not arguing whether they 1301 were worth it or not—possibly they were—but I was saying that these men had abandoned the trade union movement that had put them into the picture. I am absolutely convinced that that split must come sooner or later.
On the other hand, our contention is that there is an alternative to nationalisation in labour relations and co-partnership. We claim that private enterprise can outbid the nationalised industries any day of the week, not only in service to the community, which it certainly can, but in labour relations. That is why I was glad that my hon. Friend who opened the Debate from this side of the House mentioned the Workers' Charter. I know it is the fashion of hon. Members opposite to deride the Workers' Charter of the Conservative Party, and I do not, in one sense, blame them, because it is good politics to sneer at what one fears in the programme of one's opponents.
§ Mr. Pannell
Will the hon. Gentleman please tell us whether the Leader of the Opposition has been converted to that view?
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not know whether I need waste any time answering a silly question like that, but if the hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to follow the course of Conservative politics during the last three years, he will realise that the Workers' Charter and the Industrial Charter have been accepted by the Conservative Party at more than one annual conference.
The point that I wish to put to hon. Members opposite and to the country generally is that we mean business over the Workers' Charter. That is a warning, not merely to hon. Members opposite, who quite rightly fear it, but is equally a warning to employers throughout the country. The bad employer, like the bad landlord, has every reason to fear a Conservative Government. In some ways, he has much more reason to fear a Conservative Government than a Socialist one, because a Socialist Government, by feather-bedding and quotas, have kept in being a number of inefficient businessmen who ought to have gone to the bankruptcy courts long ago.
What do we on this side of the House mean by co-partnership? One thing we mean, which has not been mentioned very 1302 much in this Debate, is the question of breaking down the balance sheet. In one business with which I am concerned, that is something upon which I have always insisted. I was glad to see that in the case of Rugby Cement, which published its balance sheet two days ago they showed that the dividend paid to ordinary shareholders worked out at only 5½d. in every 20s. of turnover or one-third of a penny on every bag of cement. Tate and Lyle—who are so much liked by hon. Members opposite—showed that their profit was only 1/28th of a penny per pound of sugar.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Do not those figures regarding Tate and Lyle also reveal that for every pound paid in wages, 3s. 4d. was paid to the shareholders?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
In any event, I doubt whether there is any relevance to the Motion in either of those two contentions, and I hope the horn Gentleman will not pursue them.
§ Mr. Gammans
The point I am making is that, to our mind, the central factor of co-partnership is the breaking down of the balance sheet. I should like to give one example of a balance sheet last year which I happen to know about personally. It was shown, after all deductions had been made for raw materials and services, that on every 20s. which had gone to the human beings, as it were, as opposed to things, 19s. 3d. had gone in wages, one penny had gone to the directors, twopence to the shareholders, and the other sixpence to reserve.
That breaking down of the balance sheet, we contend, is essential if we are to get a proper sense of co-partnership. But it is not only that; it is the joint production councils which we on this side favour as much as do hon. Members opposite. They should not, in any sense, be bogus joint production councils, but organisations which make men realise that there are not really two sides to the table, but only one. To quote another personal example, I know of a case where a firm was offered an order at a cut price. They knew the competition was very severe, and they put it to the joint production council, "Shall we take that order or not? It means 5 per cent. extra production 1303 from you. Will you give it, or will you turn it down?" When it was put like that, the men, of course, said "yes," and they fulfilled their promise both in the letter and the spirit.
But that is not the only side of joint consultation which we favour. We believe that there should be longer contracts of service for men who have worked for a firm for some considerable time. I think that the man who has worked for a firm for, say, 10 years should be put on at least a three months' contract of service. The man who has worked for 20 years ought to be put on at least a six months' contract of service. We agree there ought to be a legal contract of service for any man who is taken on by that firm. Needless to say we support superannuation schemes, profit-sharing schemes and things like helping people to build their own houses or to acquire them. Those are the sort of things which, in our contention, are necessary for a real co-partnership. It is our belief, and hon. Gentlemen opposite are quite entitled to hold the opposite view, that in those directions we can outbid nationalisation every day of the week.
I am quite convinced that the split over nationalisation will come—and to a very large extent it has come already—between skilled and unskilled labour. It is quite obvious that at the last election many millions of trade unionists voted for us. I certainly would not have got in unless many thousands had voted for me. That reveals a direct divergence in conception between our parties. We both believe there should be a welfare floor below which no man should fall by reason of sickness, old age or unemployment. We should like to see a slightly firmer floor than the present one which, in spite of American underpinning, tends to sag and to sink.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman must forgive me, but he brings in a great number of quite irrelevant matters amongst some matters which are relevant.
§ Mr. Gammans
The Amendment is with regard to voluntary co-operation in industry and I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will agree that I might develop what is, in our opinion, the difference between our conceptions of co-operation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I may agree with the hon. Gentleman there, but he goes far beyond that. I cannot conceive how the matter of American aid can possibly affect an internal question of this sort. In any case, the hon. Gentleman has not related his remarks to the Amendment before the House.
§ Mr. Gammans
I said I would be controversial. I hope I am not giving the impression that I am controversial as to the end we have in view. I hope this Debate has revealed a very wide measure of agreement that the only hope for British industry to play its part, and for this country to maintain and improve its standard of living, is that there should be the greatest possible co-operation in industry. I hope it has also revealed that although there may be differences between us as to how that co-operation should be achieved, we all agree it is essential.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, there is a point I should like to raise. He said that trade unionists in America were entirely against nationalised undertakings.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
It has become conventional for the hon. Member who speaks at this stage of a Debate of this character to preface his observations with a remark that it has been a valuable Debate. I often think that remark is frequently made because the hon. Member concerned cannot think of anything else with which to preface his observations. I am only deterred from opening in that way by that reflection.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour—and I should like to pay tribute to his devoted and continued presence on the Bench opposite, where he has fulfilled the rÔle of Casabianca without, perhaps, all the disadvantages but with all the devotion to duty of that character—will agree that this has been a very remarkable Debate in that hon. Members, as a whole, have succeeded in sustaining a discussion of deep interest without, except occasionally, becoming unduly controversial. It has been a Debate remarkable for the number of speeches made from both sides 1305 of the House by hon. Members with practical experience of industry at all levels.
It has been a remarkable Debate for two first-class maiden speeches. Those who heard my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), I think, were immensely impressed—whether they agreed with his views or not is not material—both by his patent sincerity and his obvious grasp of certain of the practical necessities of our industrial life. I hope I may be allowed also to pay tribute to another maiden speaker, the hon Member for Deptford (Mr. J. Cooper), since I have the distinction of being his Parliamentary representative. It is a rare experience for an hon. Member to be able to pay such a tribute to a constituent. I might perhaps remark in parenthesis that I well remember the location of the hon. Gentleman's house in my constituency, since by a curious chance it was the only house in that particular road which during the recent General Election did not display one of my window bills.
We have had contributions from both sides, with Members speaking from their practical experience. I know that all hon. Members listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) because they know that he speaks with such immense authority on this subject. If I may be allowed to do so, I would recommend to those hon. Members who were not able to be present during his speech this afternoon the possibility of reading it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. There were many speeches, from my hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) and Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Ian Orr-Ewing), and from hon. Members on the other side, too, who addressed themselves practically to this practical problem.
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), who initiated this Debate, will, I think, agree that he shares with me the quality of not being always strictly non-controversial. I was, therefore, all the more pleased, as one also at least temporarily well behaved, to find how much I agreed not only with the tone of his speech but with the draft of his Amendment. Indeed, I hope I will not do irreparable harm to his chances of the political advancement to which I know he is entitled if I say that the draft of his Amendment bears a resemblance verging upon plagiarism to the Industrial Charter. 1306 Only, if I may say so, the slight grammatical superiority of the document over the Amendment offers to the hon. Member a reasonable possibility of establishing a defence if an action were brought against him by Lord Woolton.
I would seriously ask hon. Members—and this perhaps is the most significant thing about this Debate—to note the close connection in sense and content between the words of the Amendment which the hon. Member put down and the words of the Industrial Charter. The Industrial Charter says:We wish to see a wider extension of the joint production committees which received a fresh impetus during the war. Too many have been allowed to fall into disuse at a time when they should have been extended and should be giving rise to a new form of consultation at higher levels and on wider topics. Joint consultative committees of this type are basic to our conception of economic democracy.We therefore started this Debate, as we are finishing it, on the basis that between the two main parties of this House there is substantial agreement upon the procedure to be followed, with differences perhaps only of emphasis on different aspects of the proposal.
I should like to draw attention to the great importance of the comments upon that which were made by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), who I regret to see is not now in his place, but who, as we know, when he was at the Ministry of Supply, played such a distinguished part in encouraging this movement. The hon. Gentleman said—I think I am paraphrasing him rightly—"It is all very well to put these things into policies; what about their implementation?" That, of course, is the crux of the matter. The hon. Member for Jarrow rightly has indicated that these proposals must be put forward for voluntary application. Therefore, no political party can compel, or could wisely attempt to compel, their institution. All that a political party can do and, indeed, all that a Government can do, to encourage their formation, is to create the intellectual climate, the climate of opinion, in which their establishment flourishes.
It is not really fair, therefore, to criticise either the proposals of the party to which I belong, or, indeed, the policy of His Majesty's Government on the ground that this process has not gone 1307 on as rapidly as all of us would desire. It is of the essence of these organisations that they grow gradually, that they grow by establishing a tradition—and tradition cannot be established, as an American university recently sought to establish one, by posting a notice that it was a tradition of the university that undergraduates did not walk upon the grass of the quadrangle, with an additional note that the tradition would come into effect at nine o'clock on Monday morning.
Traditions have to grow naturally and the great help a Government can give—and of course the Government are in a much stronger position to do it than is an Opposition—is, first of all, by making it clear that it is Government policy and, secondly, by giving it every encouragement in the sphere where Government action can act most directly, that is, in the industries directly or indirectly under the Government. I hope that when the Minister replies, as he will in a few moments, he will tell us what action he now proposes to take to accelerate this process in that sphere of our economic life in which, in the nature of things, the Government have a greater say than in the private sphere of industry.
The hon. Member for Rotherham was a little less than fair, I thought, to British industry as a whole. Of course, British industry varies from one extreme to another. Another hon. Member, I think it was the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), brought up the case of a bank with a foreign name. Whether it has an English ownership I really do not know, but of course it is perfectly easy to find examples of employers conducting themselves somewhat perversely on the subject of the recognition of unions. Indeed, if one were seeking for an example in that direction, it would not be necessary to look further than the Government Front Bench.
But, equally, there are industries in which joint consultation has been carried very far, and I should like to remind the House of the way in which it is conducted in a company which will, I think, be known to a good many hon. Members—the Birmingham Small Arms Company. Their joint production consultative and advisory committee discusses such subjects as the following—and I ask hon. 1308 Members to note them: maximum utilisation of existing machinery, improvements in methods of production, efficient use of the maximum number of production hours, elimination of defective work and waste, efficient use of material supplies and efficient use of safety precautions and devices. That is merely one example and it is perfectly possible to find other firms equally progressive. While the picture is, therefore, not as good as we should like to see it, it is perhaps not quite as bad as some hon. Members apparently have felt.
Before we part from this subject, we should clear our minds as to what it is that this joint consultation is to do. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston said, it is not a substitute for efficient management; it is a very useful adjunct to it, but it is dangerous in any organisation to blur the edges of responsibility. It is dangerous to give management an excuse for failure. It is dangerous to take away from those who manage a concern absolute responsibility for the success or failure of that concern, and I am glad to see that the Government themselves followed the principle I have indicated when they arranged the administration of the industries which have been nationalised. They have made it perfectly clear that responsibility for the administration of those industries rests squarely on the shoulders of the boards concerned, and that is rightly so.
Equally, it is dangerous—and here I agree with an hon. Member opposite—when consultation strays over the boundary into the sphere of negotiations on wages and conditions. Anything is dangerous which interferes with the smooth working of our system of negotiations between organisations of workers and employers on the subject of wages and conditions. The smooth working of that system is vital to modern industry. It is dangerous to do anything that interferes with that smooth working, and it is necessary to watch in case, in their zeal, consultative committees, production committees, do stray over that boundary, because if they do there is a danger of friction which all of us would regret.
The immense value, it seems to me, of this process is that it brings, as it is so difficult to bring in modern industry, management and men—at any rate, some of the men—face to face. It is terribly 1309 easy to hate and dislike people we do not know, people of whom one merely sees the signature at the bottom of a document. It is terribly difficult, Sir, really to hate people whom you are seeing regularly. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite must not flatter themselves on the regularity of their attendance.
However, I think that the example of this House is in point of fact, a very good one on the point I am trying to make. I think that a great many hon. Members opposite, when they were first elected Members of this House, came here feeling that any Conservative Member of this House must inevitably be a being of immense wealth—I sometimes wish, in that connection, that they were right—and a person completely destitute of any ordinary, decent human feeling. I am certain that some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House came here in the belief that every Socialist Member was a Bolshevik run mad.
I think that most of us—I see there are exceptions: very recent exceptions—on the whole have come—and it is one of the immense values of this House—not to agree with each other, but to respect each other; and I believe that what this House does for hon. Members on both sides, zealous and sincere politicians of widely differing views though we all are, can be done for what the right hon. Gentleman calls, though I regret the phrase, the "two sides of industry." If we are meeting people regularly round the table, it does become very much easier to understand that they are human beings trying to do their best, and not the embodiment of Satanic forces. Therefore, I would myself put first this possibility of personal contact which joint consultation brings about.
However, I do deplore the phrase that I myself inadvertently used a moment ago, "the two sides of industry." I must say that the Minister is, perhaps, an even more regular offender. It is surely essential—and here again these committees can so much help to this end—to realise that there are not two sides in industry; but that they are but two aspects of the same organisaion; and that both sides depend for their future upon the success of that industry. It is indeed, I think, the fact that it is the worker in industry who suffers the worse if that industry 1310 fails. His interests, therefore, are more perhaps even than his employer's bound up with the success of that industry, because the employer may well have investments in other industry while the worker has very often invested his particular skill in that particular trade.
The more these committees can make it clear that there is no essential antagonism between the workers and the managements, between the workers and the employers, and that, on the contrary, they are engaged in different aspects of the identical job, the more will these committees conduce to the success of industry and to all those engaged in it, and, what is more important, conduce to the economic survival of our nation.
Let us say quite frankly that there is much to regret in our country's past. I do not believe that any hon. Member of this House can honestly look back on the past of his side of industry without viewing certain incidents on his own side with regret. But I do beg of hon. Members opposite not to dwell too much upon the feuds or fears of the past. The wise man does not allow his attitude to be dominated by them; the wise man surely uses them merely as warnings for the future. If these committees, by their extension and their development, can do something to prevent the antagonism which, to our sorrow and to our loss, has grown up in our industrial system—though it is less today than it was—if these committees can do something to reduce that, they will be justified, and justified scores of times over. I hope they will not be used as a means simply of perpetuating these old feuds, but that they will be used far more as a means of focussing the loyalty and the co-operation of everybody in industry to their common task.
This has been an unusual, and I believe it may well be an historic, Debate because the House has engaged itself, not in a controversy as to the imposition by legislation of restrictions upon the citizen, but rather by way of debate and discussion has sought to develop public opinion in a direction favourable to the interests of the nation as a whole. A great deal of emphasis has been put upon the increased efficiency which joint consultation brings. I do not propose to add anything on that, except to say this—and I was reminded of it by words used by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton.
1311 When that great leader of men Lord Montgomery was seeking to build up the morale of the Eighth Army, he spent an infinity of time upon telling his troops, not only about their own job but about the campaign as a whole. He did not do that out of a well-meaning desire to interest them. He did it because he knew that soldiers will put a little extra into the attack on the hill in front of them if they know they are attacking that hill, not because their commanders cannot thick of anything else to order them to do but because it is part of a movement whose purpose is to pin down the enemy on the hill while an armoured column swings round its left flank.
That technique of Lord Montgomery, whose success is now written across the face of the world, has a lesson for us in industry. I believe that we get so much more efficient work from people—as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said in his very interesting speech—if they know the purpose of their work, and if they know how it fits into the whole pattern of their industry, and how their industry fits into the whole pattern of the nation.
But I put much more weight on the other aspect of the matter—the social aspect. It is the tragedy of our industrial age that so many people can find so little satisfaction in work of a repetitive and specialist nature; that they inevitably regard their working hours as hours to be got through somehow, with the compensation of artificial entertainments outside working hours. We want to get back to the spirit in which people can find a satisfaction in work, because I believe that a man who does not get pleasure and satisfaction out of his work is having only half the value in life to which he is entitled. I believe that by enabling people to realise the importance of their work, to realise the truth of the slogan which the Lord President when he was Minister of Home Security in 1940, plastered all over London—" It All Depends on Me"—and to realise that the individual job at the individual bench matters, and matters enormously, we can do more to build up the self-respect and the sense of responsibility of the citizen than by any comparable means.
I venture this prophecy: that this Debate is not only a helpful thing, but is 1312 a Debate which in the future people may look back upon as an historic event, because we have seen the two great parties in the State getting together to urge this wholesome and hopeful development upon our people, to urge upon industry as a whole to forget the feuds and follies of the past, and to realise that there is no problem which cannot be solved by reasonable people in reasonable discussion. I believe that we have the chance. Let us, in words that the poet Tennyson very nearly used, ring in the age of common sense.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)
I am proud to have the opportunity of making the winding-up speech tonight at this meeting of the nation's supreme joint industrial council, for that is what it has now become. Before dealing with some of the points that have been raised, and, I hope, making clear the action of the Government through the Ministry of Labour on this subject, I think it is right that I should refer to the two excellent maiden speeches of the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. J. Cooper) and the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr). They were particularly interesting because they were both speaking of exactly the same kind of experience approached from a different angle. They gave the House useful information and made a valuable contribution to the Debate.
I should like, first, to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). When the hon. Gentleman gets up, some of us have to duck because we do not always know what is coming. Tonight, we were wondering what line he would take. I most sincerely compliment him on the speech which he has made, which was a most valuable contribution. It was his speech which prompted me to refer to the House tonight as the nation's supreme joint industrial council. Much that he said will be of great value to the Minister of Labour in his task of cultivating and advocating the extension of these joint councils in industry. This Debate will be regarded as a Parliamentary decision that the House of Commons desire that this should be done. I know that there is a certain section of industry which will do their best to decry everything which has been said tonight and to 1313 try to use this joint council machinery for their own purposes, but the unanimity which has been shown will, I think, help us to overcome that.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames referred to the plagiarism of the Amendment compared with the Industrial Charter. Perhaps the same can be said in connection with the Whitley Council reports which come to us from time to time, so we have apparently gone to the same sources. He said that no Government could do more than encourage the formation of these councils. That is what we propose to do and are doing. I will tell the House about that in a moment. We cannot do more than encourage; any attempt at compulsion would fail at the beginning.
One other point which he mentioned—and I think his words were valuable—was in reference to the value of meeting around the table. Workmen may know the manager only by name or through seeing him walk through their place of work, and they may think of him in harsh terms, but when they sit opposite to him, a mutual respect often grows. Contact brings understanding and then respect. We see that in this House. We understand and respect though we may not often reach agreement. I am a happy man tonight to be able to wind up a Debate in which there has been so much agreement.
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) went a little outside the spirit of the Amendment, and tried to bring a little liveliness into the Debate. He did not succeed, so I do not think we need bother any more about his speech. I was interested in the opening speech of the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), and not merely because he, like myself, is a printer. Printers are a bit clannish; we all go to the same chapel together, even if we do not go on Sundays. He used several phrases in his speech that will be useful. Anyone who knows anything about workshop life knows that a happy shop will do better than one without happiness. We want these good relations.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that people spoke of the art of man management. Man management is not an art—it is all very arty-crafty for those who write treatises about it—but just 1314 plain common sense. Another thing he said was that these councils should be given the facts, which reminds me of the slogan used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) during the war:Give us the tools and we will finish the job.If there is any trouble, then give the committee the facts and they will find a way out.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to a booklet that had come into his possession with the title "Ministry of Labour Whitley at the Crossroads." I am sorry that this has been brought up. It may seem as if there is a real difference of opinion, but by referring to the "Federation News," which is a publication of the Federation of the Ministry of Labour staff, I hope I shall be able to remove from his mind—I know that the Ministry is still very dear to him—any suggestion that there is any misunderstanding or ill-feeling in the matter. The vice-chairman and leader of the staff side of the Whitley Council, stated, on 17th January:It is impossible to cast away a machine that has served the staff well through 10 historic years without paying tribute to the unsparing work of the members of both sides. … One achievement was speed. There had been a change in outlook manifested in a keenness to make progress quickly, often by informal discussion in small committees. This extension of informal working has brought in its train an increase in friendly relationships.‖It would work well because the Whitley spirit was present.Although there may have been one or two arguments, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take the assurance from me that we have not fallen down on industrial relations in the Ministry.
§ Mr. Isaacs
The hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) made a very valuable contribution to the Debate. Anyone who reads this Debate will be able to obtain some very valuable information from the speeches that have been made. He said that there must be no feeling of complaint, and that the first job of a production committee was to remove any complaints, for example, deciding whether the tea was too hot or too cold and whether the lavatory or washing facilities were adequate. There 1315 used to be an old saying that an empty house is better than a bad tenant. It is best to get rid of the complaints first before discussing the future.
Several Members have stressed the fact that if we are to establish valuable joint production committees it must be done with the full recognition of the trade unions. By that means we shall brush away most of the difficulties. The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) also gave us the benefit of his experience. He referred to the fact that I paid a visit to his factory. I had a talk with the workpeople there, and I was most impressed. I found, as I do elsewhere, a really personal interest in joint consultation, bringing about a spirit of which everyone could be proud. He said that if we carry on like we are doing we shall have the best industrial relations in the world. I do not know much about grammar, but I would delete the words "we shall have" and substitute the words "we have," because I am sure no country in the world has as good a relationship as that which exists in this country.
Perhaps I may now traverse rather briefly some history so that we may bring the matter into proper perspective, although many of the things I am about to say have already been said by hon. Members who have spoken. We must go back, not so far back as the Whitley Committee, which set the pace or set the target, but to December, 1940, when my predecessor in office, who is now the Foreign Secretary, said:It is my considered view that, in order to avoid conditions which cause discontent, there should be established in all industrial establishments standing joint arrangements for regular discussion between managements and properly elected representatives of the work-people on matters in which they are mutually interested.That set the pace in war-time and the new machinery began to be built, first in the coal mines and then in shipbuilding. In 1942 came the agreement, to which the hon. Member for Edgbaston referred, on joint consultative machinery in the engineering industries. The building and civil engineering industries followed, and gradually there was established what we like to call this "modern technique of management."
The war ended, and the great war-time impulse of preservation, which urged on the construction of these committees, 1316 began to die away. Some of them had not existed long enough to get their roots firmly fixed in industry, and as we got away from the war so they began to fall away. Many of them, however, remained. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames referred to B.S.A. and their constitution. Many of the committees which have remained were not in such a flourishing condition in the early days after the war, but they have come into full force and gained impetus and value by the slight slowing up which some of them had at that time. We built them up again, and we may find now that it is necessary to start rebuilding.
One question that has frequently been referred to is whether we should build from the top or from the bottom. We are trying to do both. We want to get the plans through at the top and then to start working at the bottom. The way we are proceeding is this: We have a National Joint Advisory Council, which meets at the Ministry of Labour under my chairmanship. It consists of 17 representatives of the British Employers' Confederation and 17 of the Trades Union Congress. To that Council, which, during the war, rendered tremendous service, we go for advice on all matters which affect industry; and very valuable is their advice. We asked for their sponsorship of a campaign to encourage joint works committees. They were not in a hurry to come to a decision—they never give a snap decision. The request was submitted, debated, adjourned, brought forward again and finally adopted by them as a recommendation that they would welcome suitable machinery being established for the regular interchange of views provided, first:that such machinery would be purely voluntary and advisory in character.As it happens, that has been stressed by every Member who has spoken here tonight. I have not heard anyone argue that we should attempt to have any compulsion.
The second condition was that the committeeswould not deal with questions relating to terms and conditions of employment which are normally dealt with through the ordinary machinery of joint negotiations.Once again they anticipated this House, because everybody who has touched upon 1317 this subject tonight has said the same thing. The third condition was thatit would be left to each industry through its ordinary negotiating arrangements to adjust the form of machinery best suited to its own particular circumstances, and to decide in particular whether such machinery could best be established at the factory level, or cover a wider area.Those proposals were adopted. They where sent out to the various organisations concerned, and we then conducted an inquiry.
We put upon one of our headquarters officials the special duty of handling this matter, contacting industry and following the matter up. National organisations were approached and were told that our services at headquarters would be available to them. We asked that the national organisations should give attention to the recommendations of the National Joint Advisory Council. At the same time, jointly with the regional boards for industry, we were convening meetings in the different areas to stimulate interest in the subject. Hon. Members who have asked tonight that we should take on more active work in the regions may rest assured that that work is already in progress and has been for some time.
Having got national agreements, to some of which I will refer, we secured copies and sent them out to our industrial relations officers so that if a firm should want to establish a joint works committee and wanted information they could get it from our employment exchanges or regional officers, who would tell them what was the system adopted in their industry. It is not the job of the Ministry to advocate a particular kind of constitution, but to urge that a constitution should be adopted and, if they ask for it, to provide them with the one for their industry. If there is not one for their industry we have a specimen form of constitution which we supply to them.
We have organised 42 conferences on joint consultation and most of them are attended by representatives from firms which have joint committees in operation. They are able from their own experience to advise others of the kind of work they should undertake. Of the 54 industries we have approached on this matter 51 have taken steps to set up joint machinery, or have had such machinery already in being. Some adopt a constitution which has to be followed fairly rigidly by their local areas, while others 1318 say they have no objection to a joint council being formed and to the adoption of machinery which is thought most suitable in the local interests.
I wish to refer, briefly, to the value of works councils in operation. I have noticed that in some councils I have attended the members of the works committee are called councillors and if they are referred to on the notice board, or in the works, they are always described as "Councillor Mr.—" or "Councillor Miss—." That is only a little thing, but it is important. We are proud to put the initials M.P. after our names and they like to advertise themselves as councillors I had intended to dilate on the kind of things that work councils can do, but they have been referred to so much, especially by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, who, as I have said, quoted the example of B.S.A.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many other factories were pioneering works committees, stewards' committees, and so on, long before B.S.A.?
§ Mr. Isaacs
I am aware of that, but I drew attention to it because the kind of thing to which the hon. Member referred in the constitution of B.S.A. has been adopted in the constitutions of most joint committees.
I wish to show the kind of spirit we find. This time last year I was in the West of England on a visit to the china clay industry and a manager came to me saying, "I have had the dickens of a time"—that was not the word he used, but it was something like it. He said "We have taken an order for 3,000 tons of china clay for despatch to America in so many days. We have everything ready to load on the ship but they have sent a cable asking us to make the order 5,000 tons. It is a very difficult job." I asked, "What are you doing about it?" and he said, "I have a works committee; I have left it to them." It was a simple matter; he felt that as there was a works committee they would get him out of his difficulties.
I had experience of a similar case at a famous ship-repairing firm on the south coast of England. When I mention the fact that they were building a forepart on to the back half of a ship—they had only had half sent to them—some hon. 1319 Members may recognise the firm. The management told me that it seemed as though they would lose the contract because the time they had quoted for completing the job was beaten by the dates quoted by foreign competitors. The firm called their works committee together and explained the problem to them. The men agreed that somehow or other they would do the job in the required time. I learned afterwards that they did so. I mention those cases to show that if there is understanding, a good spirit, a real belief in the firm and a real belief on the part of the firm in its workmen, many of these difficulties can be overcome.
I have been asked tonight about some of the industries with which the Government themselves are associated. I had intended to mention several of the nationalised industries, but my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) referred fully to the gas industry, so I need not mention that. I should like to tell the House what is being done now by British Railways. In issue No. 2 of their "Transport News" they say:Through consultation management and staff can discuss together the future of our industry.In another paragraph it is stated:The Executive has undertaken whenever possible to give advance notice of its future plans to the staff concerned, so that there can be free and frank discussion about them.In another part of the same paper, Mr. John Benstead, the Deputy-Chairman, writes:First, what sort of consideration is going to be given to the views of the men on the job? Will the management take into account the wealth of practical experience that often lies behind those views? My reply is that the management of British Transport are pledged to a real exchange of views wherever that is possible.These statements are published and issued to the industry, and as some of my hon. Friends have said, there is now growing up in the British transport industry a better sense of joint understanding than has ever previously existed.
One hon. Member made reference to the fact that we often see plenty of Press publicity about discord and misunderstanding, but not much publicity about harmony and the good things that are happening. I have been mixed up with the newspapers of this country for a long 1320 time, and I should like to say what I have said in some of the conferences I have had with them. So far as good understanding in factories is concerned, if British newspapers were to preach what they practice there would be a great deal better understanding in this country. I say that because of the understanding, the relationship, the esprit de corps, the feeling that the paper must come out, which runs right through British newspapers. Take the example of the men who get the newspaper out, however late the news comes in. They know that the papers will catch the trains and other transport because there is a good spirit in their offices. If they would only preach, in their newspapers, the kind of good relationships which exist in their offices, we could achieve a good deal more understanding than is done by drawing attention to discord and misunderstanding.
I have been asked about publishing a new industrial relations handbook. We will give consideration to that. I have here Supplement No. 3, dealing with joint consultation in industry. It sets out all the new agreements made and the new regulations adopted by the various industries in relation to joint council work up to December. It contains a few words of exhortation at the beginning, but, in the main, it contains a list of organisations, industries, etc., which have adopted these schemes. As an illustration of its usefulness, I can tell the House that we sold 4,500 copies in the six weeks after its issue. It is now completely out of stock and has to be reprinted. In giving an undertaking to consider the publication of an up to date document, I would ask that this be allowed to wait for a few months until we can get the position settled in the other one or two outstanding industries.
I want to call attention to one point which, in my view, may have had a retarding effect on progress in this matter. The House will doubtless have noticed that when most people talk about joint consultation in industry, the implication invariably is that joint consultation is something between top management and the rank and file operatives instead of being a recognised managerial technique permeating throughout the organisation and embracing all levels of personnel; The directors taking their immediate subordinates into consultation and those 1321 subordinates acting similarly until the whole supervisory line, down to the foreman, is brought effectively into the picture.
In my opinion, the test of a genuine belief in joint consultation is the degree of its universality in an organisation, and not just the existence of a joint committee with the manual workers only. It cannot occasion surprise that junior members of managements and foremen, all who form part of the production team, technicians, draughtsmen, etc., should be brought in, and other sections of a staff look cynically on a committee where higher management bring the rank and file into the picture to the careless exclusion of intermediate management and other classes. In our view a joint works committee should be a joint works committee and include representatives of everybody employed in the firm, and not merely certain sections of them.
Having given this undertaking so far as the Amendment is concerned, and having accepted completely the idea of the hon. Member who moved it and having had valuable information and guidance from hon. Members in all parts of the House in carrying on this work, I trust that with that assurance my hon. Friend will be content to withdraw the Amendment.
Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
While conceding the importance of the printing industry, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he has anything to say about joint consultation in the cotton industry in Lancashire?
§ Mr. Isaacs
Yes, Sir, but not at this stage. We shall not put up this matter for discussion in the House. We shall deal with the cotton industry in the ordinary way.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
In view of the statements by the Minister, and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and the permission of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I am sure we have had a most instructive Debate and that the House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Femyhough) for taking such a leading part in this subject. I hope that the views enunciated by the Minister in his final speech will be noted throughout the country and throughout industry as a whole, not only in the trade union movement and by many of those people who have pioneered these efforts for joint consultation, but throughout all the ranks of management as well.
If only some of these lessons put forward are taken into account, I am sure that the productive efforts in the country will enable us to overcome our economic difficulties much more easily. From my own experience in an industrial area, I can say that where joint consultation machinery has been put into practice there is a much happier atmosphere prevailing in the factories; and production as a whole shows a great increase, which is something we would all desire. I am sure that this Debate and the subject chosen by my hon. Friend on this Supply Day has achieved a very useful purpose. If all the things which have been ventilated in the House today can be noted widely in the Press and in the technical journals, we shall have achieved a very useful purpose for industry.
In the North-East, which my hon. Friend knows so well, we have a record of industrial harmony. It is true to say that on Tees-side there has been no major industrial upheaval of any kind. This shows plainly that management and men have been working together throughout the war years—
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Committee to sit again Tomorrow.