§ 25. Mr. Awbery
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that in the setting up of joint industrial councils the Government contemplated that agreements reached by industrial councils should carry with them the same obligation of observance as exists in the case of other agreements between employers' associations and trade unions, and that this has become the basis of negotiations by joint councils; under what arrangement this has been modified; and what Government Departments are affected by this change.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I have no knowledge of the introduction of any changes or modifications affecting agreements reached between employers' associations and trade unions. The last part of the Question does not therefore arise.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is the Minister aware that the recent action of the Government falls far below the standard of negotiations set up between the trade union movement and the employers? Is he aware that four years after the First World War the Agricultural Wages Act was destroyed by the Government, and that the trade unionists feel that this Government are taking steps to destroy the negotiating machinery set up after years of strenuous work by them?
§ Mr. Macleod
I know that there is a difference of opinion upon this matter between the two sides of the House, but I am quite certain that no such interference as the hon. Member suggests has in fact been made. In regard to the particular instance of the National Health 376 Service Whitley Council, which is in his mind, it was the intention of Parliament, for special reasons, with which the House is familiar, that the Minister should be in the position of exercising final approval of the recommendation, and not the decision, that was reached.
§ 26. Mr. Collins
asked the Minister of Labour if he will write to the joint secretaries of all joint industrial councils informing them that the Government have no intention of interfering with any joint decisions reached by joint industrial councils affecting wages or conditions of labour.
§ Mr. Collins
Speaking as a member of a joint industrial council, may I ask the Minister to accept as a fact that doubt and confusion has been caused by various Government statements? Will he, therefore, remove that doubt by making it clear—as I think is his intention—that he has no intention of interfering with decisions of joint industrial councils?
§ Mr. Macleod
I think that I have made that clear. The hon. Member has great experience of this matter. He is on a joint industrial council, and he knows that he is there negotiating with his own and his colleagues' money. Whatever agreement he comes to with the trade unions concerned has no more to do with either myself or any other Minister of the Crown than what he chooses to pay his secretary. It is entirely a matter for the people concerned, and therefore the case of Government intervention does not arise.
§ Mr. Robens
Do the Government propose to change the composition of Whitley Councils in order to bring them into line with what he has now said?
§ Mr. Macleod
No. Considering the question apart from the Whitley Council field for the moment, the Government play no part in the great field of industrial councils. In many cases, such as in the Civil Service, the management side is composed of Government representatives, and therefore they are also the representatives of the employers. It is only in the special case to which I make special 377 reference that Parliament—not the Government—has laid down the special position of the Minister, and he must fulfil his duty as each case comes to him.
§ Mr. Robens
But surely, if it is the intention of the Government not to grant any increase which might be recommended by a Whitley Council, might not it be better for the Government to deal directly with the staff side, in which case every agreement arrived at would be accepted?