§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We come now to Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, leave out "Monopolies Commission" and insert "Commission for Competition" with which it is proposed that we take Amendment No. 2, in line 16, leave out "preserve" and insert "substitute for".
Amendment No. 3, in line 16, at end insert:the name 'the Commission for Competition'".Amendment No. 74, in Schedule 1, page 20, line 3, leave out "Monopolies Commission" and insert "Commission for Competition", and Amendment No. 75, in line 7, leave out "Monopolies Commission" and insert "Commission for Competition".
Mr. John Hall. Mr. van Straubenzee.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I see from the Order Paper that the hon. Member's name is not down to the Amendment, but I understand that he has the right to move it.
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, to leave out "Monopolies Commission" and to insert "Commission for Competition".
I thought for a moment that I would not be able to perform this important task. This task is the old and well-known one of trying to substitute, as these Amendments do, a proper and accurate name, which is not offensive, for the present name of the Monopolies Commission. We seek to substitute the title "Commission for Competition".
65 The Monopolies Commission was always an inaccurate title and it becomes more inaccurate as the years go by and greater powers are added to it. In 1948 the present Prime Minister, when he was President of the Board of Trade, appealed to Members of the House to help him choose a better title, "a more accurate and still reasonably sounding title". Ever since then people have sought to do this, and we think that we have now succeeded. When I say "we" I must pay tribute, in his absence, to my hon. Friend, the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) who has some copyright to this title which, among a lot of front runners, was eventually selected for fulfilling the qualifications suggested by the present Prime Minister as being "accurate and still reasonably sounding".
It is well known that according to the terms of the 1948 Statute, one has a monopoly in the sale of goods or the provision of services or the processing of goods and so on if one has as little as 33 per cent. of the market. So we get a state of affairs in which there are three monopolies in the one field. This was always ridiculous and offensive, because to call someone a monopolist still has a disparaging connotation. I am not sure that the Minister without Portfolio agrees with that. At other stages of the Bill he suggested that it is no longer offensive to call someone a monopolist although it might have been in 1948. He certainly thought it was in the 1948 debates on this matter.
I suggest that it is still offensive, and that to call someone in particular a monopoly capitalist is still included in the catalogue of Marxist abuse, and so long as it is there it seems to me that it should not be allowed to be used in the official documents and titles of bodies if it can be avoided. We think it can be avoided.
I think the matter has got worse rather than better because of the new powers of this Commission, which is often not dealing with monopolies in any sense of the word at all. First, there is the suggestion in the Bill, in spite of our objections, that the Commission should consider mergers where there may be as little as 5 per cent. of the market or even less involved. When one considers the £5 million assets limit 66 in later Clauses of the Bill, it should be remembered that in many heavy capitalised industries, such as the chemical industry and others, £5 million is a relatively small sum of money. Therefore—I am not arguing the merits—one may have circumstances in which this Commission is dealing with proposed mergers which involve perhaps only 5 per cent. or even less of any particular industry.
We also have in the Bill the newspaper provisions where the relevant limit now is a circulation of 500,000. That again may introduce within the orbit of the Commission matters which are far less than 33⅓ per cent. of the market, however one may define the market.
Above all, with the new power over services it is difficult to see how monopoly comes into the matter. The Commission, for example, may be dealing with the question of solicitors' fees or the terms of admission to estate agents' or other professions. It may be investigating the terms of entry where it is alleged that there is undue restriction on entry into certain professions. That may be a proper thing to inquire into, but to suggest that the Commission would be inquiring into a monopoly is an abuse of language which we should no longer tolerate. Indeed, as the Minister of State said in Committee, the word "monopoly" implies scale monopoly, and these things have nothing to do with scale monopoly.
We proposed originally five or six different titles, to all of which there were objections. Finally, the matter crystallised into this title, "Commission for Competition". I paid tribute in his absence to my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford. Now that he is present I might pay him a tribute again and at the same time give a consolation prize to my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), who for many days was not at all inclined to jettison his suggestion.
Eventually we agreed that this is the best and most accurate title that one can obtain. It is not completely accurate because, as I think the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Floud) pointed out at one time, there might be situations, though I think that they are getting fewer, in which the Commission comes to the conclusion that it cannot promote competition. It might conclude that the structure of the industry or service is such 67 that it must accept a monopoly position and all it can do is to try to regulate the monopoly either by its prices or something else.
These would be a decreasing minority of cases, because in the Bill the Government, quite rightly, are taking powers of divesting by which for the first time it will be possible to break up a monopoly forcibly, as the Americans have done for many years, by a divesting decree. Therefore, the argument of the hon. Member for Acton that the functions of the Commission could not be properly described as a "Commission for Competition," because in some cases it could not promote competition and would have to accept monopoly by regulating it, becomes very minimal now that the Commission has this divesting power.
Compared with the inaccuracy of the present name the inaccuracy of the suggested name is so small as to be practically inconspicuous. The inaccuracy of the present name stands out like a sore thumb, firstly because of the mergers, secondly because of the newspapers, thirdly because of the services, and fourthly because it was never accurate in the first place. I do not want to go into terms in economics like monopsolist, oligopolist and others which are employed to describe more accurately the idea of the particular state of a particular market. No one would wish to choose a name of that sort. We must have a name which is both memorable and easily comes off the tongue. "Commission for Competition" is not only both memorable and comes off the tongue easily, but it describes the purpose of all our work in this Bill, as indeed our work in 1948 and 1956 and in all the other land marks of this field of legislation, which has been and is to promote competition.
It is good that we should mark and name it by the symbol and title of the Commission which will do the work. It is true that perhaps more than one body also does this work. The Restrictive Trade Practices Court does it. It may be that the National Board for Prices and Incomes is seeking to do it, and it may be that the Select Committee which we heard of earlier in the debate is also seeking to do it, but the prime function will rest on this Commission for a long time 68 to come. I should like to see this made known by the change in the name.
The new name will not only reduce the offensive nature of the inquiry and make those who are investigated feel less as if they were the accused in the dock and feel less of a public enemy, but it will give everyone concerned with the Commission the idea that the House is determined to produce the maximum competition in the various fields dealt with by the Commission.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)
I should like to thank my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. C. Fletcher-Cooke) for his kind and undeserved remarks about the origin of this suggestion for the renaming of the Commission. I agree with him that opinion on both sides of the Standing Committee which discussed the group of Amendments containing various suggestions for a change of name eventually crystallised round this suggestion. I would regard that as a strong reason why we should give the suggestion very close thought and, indeed, accept it as a right name. It attracted the support of the Committee because of its merits and not because of the eloquence of its proposer.
My hon. and learned Friend has made the negative point that the use of the word "Monopolies" in the present title of the Monopolies Commission is quite wrong. The President of the Board of Trade, who no doubt will be replying may attempt to defend the continuation of the title "Monopolies Commission". The right hon. Gentleman, if he will permit me to say so, has never struck me as being the man to whom the description "Humpty Dumpty" could be appropriately applied. Indeed, anyone less like Humpty Dumpty it would be difficult to imagine, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that it was Humpty Dumpty who produced those memorable words, "I make words mean what I want them to mean. The only question is who is to be the master, me or the words."
This is what is happening with the Commission becausce it has powers to investigate conditions to which by no possible stretch of imagination could the word "monopoly" be applied. This 69 has a number of most unfortunate results, perhaps the most serious being the extent to which those affected by the decisions of the Commission resent the suggestion that they are a monopoly or anything approaching a monopoly. The whole investigation gets off on the wrong foot and, occasionally, bad blood is created. People start with the assumption that they are being investigated because tley are a monopoly although they know that, in fact, they often face fierce competition, and they view with scorn and derision an investigation which appears to set out on the assumption that they are a monopoly.
It is of the utmost importance that industry and commerce, and now the professions, should become reconciled to monopoly legislation being a perpetual part of our economic system, and this requires that we get away from the name "monopoly". It is so important that these people should approve our monopolies legislation—I use the word generally, without commending it—and should co-operate wholeheartedly with it that a change from the title "Monopolies Commission" is essential.
The only question is, a change to what? What name can be suggested instead? If one looks for a word to express the underlying economic premise of the whole of this legislation, that word is "competition". It is competition which the legislation is intended to promote and which the Board of Trade, in the vast majority of cases, seeks to enforce. The word "competition" has the supreme merit of having all sorts of good connotations, recognised as good on both sides of the House. There was a time when "competition" was a dirty word on that side of the House, but I am happy to acknowledge that this is no longer so. Hon. Members on both sides never tire of paying tribute to the importance of competition as a means of galvanising our economy into a more virile and competitive state. I chose the word "galvanising" deliberately. I believe that no single act in the past few years is likely to have more effect in promoting competition than the decision of the Restrictive Trade Practices Court in the galvanised tanks case. I should stray out of order if I elaborated on that now, but the purpose is the same, to promote competition and by competition to 70 promote efficiency and ensure the public interest, to ensure that consumers, who are, after all, the ultimate beneficiaries of production, are looked after.
The importing of the word "competition" into the title of the Commission would thus serve a double purpose. First, the concept of competition is attractive to business men and it is something to which they must always pay heed. They live in a competitive situation. They know that their right to run their businesses and make profits is justifiable only in a situation of competition. They are prepared always to face fair competition and they regard it as the substratum of their operations. Second, competition is what we in the House, and what the Government as the overlords of the economy, must always attempt to promote in order to make our whole economy more efficient.
For these two central reasons, this suggestion has a great deal to commend it, and they are fortified by the powerful arguments advanced by my hon. and learned Friend about the widening scope of the activities of the Commission under the Bill and the others matters which he so cogently advanced. I very much hope that the Government will accept the Amendment. Our proposal has considerable merit. If Parliament accepted this change of name, it would do a great deal to attract attention to the purpose of our legislation and to show that the Government and all parties in the House are determined that industry should become more competitive and determined that those who provide services of one sort or another should compete fairly and toughly for the consumers' custom. In addition, it would act as a genuine spur to efficiency and to an altogether more virile and healthy economy throughout the country.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
As a newcomer, I find this exercise in semantics so fascinating that I hope that my right hon. Friend, when he replies, will think it right to draw attention to the true nature of the proposition which we are asked to accept, namely, that competition is good and monopoly is bad. This proposition is put forward in the context of this debate, but hon. Members opposite do not always take that view. On occasion, they take the view, as we certainly do on occasion, that an industry 71 can develop to a point where monopoly is inevitable, but the difference between us is that we say that, when that situation has been reached, the monopoly must be a public monopoly. After a few years, even hon. Members opposite come round to accepting the same view, but it takes them a little time.
Therefore, we do not really take the point that in all circumstances competition is good and in all circumstances monopoly is bad. There is no other point made here as this is purely an exercise in semantics. On other occasions, hon. Members opposite refer to competition as being bad. They sometimes talk about "cut-throat" competition as competition taken to a degree to which it ought not to go. Therefore, they cannot be saying that competition is always good. Clearly, there are circumstances in which competition is bad, in spite of the proposition now put before us that it is an ideal to which we ought always to aim. This is only a question of words. It is rather like calling a rat-catcher a rodent operative. It comes into a similar category of thinking.
I commend to my right hon. Friend the thought that not wanting to call things what they are is a tendency not confined to our own country. For example, some years ago, when the Soviet Union was thinking of adopting some of the ideas which obtain in our part of the world, it did not like the word "competition" and so the expression "socialist emulation" was invented. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, if he is thinking of accepting the proposal put to him, will accept it to the extent of calling the Commission not the "Commission for Competition" but the "Commission for Socialist Emulation".
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
That idea would not be so bad if there were any real socialist emulation. No doubt, if I were to discuss the concept of socialist emulation any further, I should be out of order on this Amendment. I can only say that I have never found anything in the Socialist Government's policies which stimulated progress by emulation. They have led only to a period of stagnation. However, I am glad that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) made his speech because 72 it showed that my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) was not quite right when he said that competition was accepted on both sides of the House. In fact, the party opposite pays lip-service to competition but it does not really believe in it. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite would much prefer a cosy monopoly—admittedly, preferably a public monopoly, but they would even prefer a private monopoly because they could then make a case for making it a public monopoly. They do not really believe in competition and, therefore, they do not really accept what we are trying to do by the Amendment.
There is nothing wrong in a monopoly. It may be to the advantage of the shareholders and it may be to the advantage of the people who work in it, although, of course, it is certainly to the disadvantage, in nearly every case, of the consuming public at large. There is no reason why people in an organisation should not desire to have a monopoly. It may be slightly socially undesirable, but there is nothing criminal in the "bosses" and the workers in a particular industry wanting the minimum of competition. But we had thought—we have been quickly proved wrong—that the present Government, when returned to power would set about modernising Britain. If there was anything in the cry that they put out at the election, this debate should not be necessary. The President of the Board of Trade ought to say, "I do not know who is responsible for devising this form of words, but it is such an improvement, calculated to create the climate of opinion which we are trying to create, that we shall accept these Amendments without debate".
It is telling all organisations, including the professions, and nearly all our activities in the modern world, that the Government are taking power to inquire into their affairs to make certain that they are as competitive as they can be within our social order for the benefit of the consuming public. In other words, the emphasis in the Bill is designed to bring a greater element of competition into all our affairs. Surely it would be far clearer to the general public if they knew that we were dealing with a Bill the object 73 of which was to introduce more competition into our society. If we are doing that—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is basically what the Bill is about—would it not be a very good thing to say that the Bill is to encourage competition?
I do not think that either side of the House can wrap themselves up in a white sheet. The Molony Commission was set up in 1948, and we called it the same name in 1956. There is no party point about this, but there is an enormous psychological effect. If we called this a "Commission for Competition" even the firms being investigated would know that they were being investigated not because they might be doing something which was anti-social, but to make sure that what they were doing was in the best interests of the nation and being done with the broadest degree of competition. They would know that any merger would not reduce the competitive element but would, if anything, increase the amount of real competition, because one can have as much competition between two big highly efficient firms as one can between 100 small inefficient firms. As long as competition is there, one can have a very high degree of it.
I should have thought that the Government would have welcomed the Amendment, and I hope that even at this late stage the President of the Board of Trade will warmly congratulate whoever on this side thought of the words and accept the Amendment with acclamation on behalf of the Government. It may be another case of the present Government learning from their own mistakes and benefiting from the wisdom of the Opposition. This has now become so usual that the Government should not be chary about accepting our wisdom and these improvements. With certain Clauses of the Finance Bill, they got into the habit of accepting certain improvements from us, and there is no reason why this should be confined to one department. Why should it not spread over the broad field of our affairs so that our wisdom will help the Government to improve their Bills? This is all good democratic procedure.
The object of the Amendment is to make absolutely clear what the House intends to do in passing the Bill, which is to increase the amount of competition between efficient firms in our economy. 74 That being the object of the Bill, why should the Government not accept the Amendment?
§ Mr. Jay
I am not quite clear what semantics are but this is certainly an argument about words. All of us agree that "Monopolies Commission" is not a perfect name, and we should like to find a better one if we could. Indeed, we undertook during the Committee stage that we would adopt a different name if it was reasonably accurate, reasonably short and not too much of a mouthful, and would not give rise to misunderstanding.
But I am afraid that hon. Gentlemen opposite have not convinced me that the suggestion which they make—I am sure that they have tried very hard, as we have—of "Commission for Competition" is on all those grounds preferable to the title that we have already. We start from the position that "Monopolies Commission" is a title which is fairly well known and accepted. People know what they mean by it. Therefore, unless there is a clearly better alternative we are not justified in making a change. I am not altogether persuaded that "Commission for Competition" is a very short or euphonious title. The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) quoted Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty went on "impenetrability—that is what I say." I think that "Commission for Competition" is not very much less of a mouthful than "impenetrability".
The name "Commission, for Competition" also suffers from the defect that it implies that this is the only body whose job it is to encourage competition. That is not true. That is also the job of the Restrictive Practices Court, which is just as important a body to encourage competition. Clearly, one of the purposes of the name that we give to the Commission is to distinguish it from the Restrictive Practices Court. Therefore, at present if we describe one as the Restrictive Practices Court and we know that it has jurisdiction over restrictive agreements or arrangements, and we describe the other as the Monopolies Commission, which has jurisdiction, in effect, over large units which dominate a considerable part of our own market, I think that as a matter of language it is reasonably clear what we mean. If, on the other hand, we call this 75 the "Commission for Competition", then there is duplication and uncertainty as between the Commission and the Restrictive Practices Court.
I do not agree that there is something offensive or depreciating about the word "monopoly". I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) that all monopolies are neither good nor bad. It is not true to say that all monopolies are good or that all monopolies are bad. It is, indeed, not true to say that competition is always good or always bad. It would be absurd exaggeration to suggest that the word "monopoly" carries a stigma. After all, this House, under a Conservative Government, set up the Atomic Energy Authority. That is a monopoly, but there is nothing derogatory or offensive in saying that it is one. So is the Post Office. Nobody would regard that fact in itself as justifying criticism. The fact that we have a number of public monopolies set up by Statute shows that a monopoly as such is not something that we condemn.
I agree that "Monopolies Commission" is not a perfect title in the sense that no doubt the Commission will concern itself with issues other than strict monopoly. However, we do not condemn names in other respects because they do not cover everything which they are intended to cover. I suppose the word "Parliament" might be said to be misleading in this sense. This is not purely a place where we talk. It is a place where we talk but also a place where we legislate and take decisions. One might argue for that reason that it was highly misleading to call it "Parliament". I must confess that, in spite of that imperfection, "Parliament" is a word which is good enough for me. I think that when one looks at the alternative the same argument applies to the admittedly imperfect title "Monopolies Commission". Therefore, while we do not claim that we have found the ideal answer to the question, we are not persuaded that anybody has yet found a better alternative.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
But does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there must be a major difference between a word which has lasted 700 years and one which has only lasted 17 years?
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
The House will agree that the President of the Board of Trade's answer is very disappointing to those who proposed this extremely well argued Amendment. Whatever may be the view of the term "Commission for Competition", one thing that has emerged is that no one, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), has a good word to say for the term "Monopolies Commission". I think that everyone agrees that that term in connection with this Bill is ludicrous. Indeed, it was ludicrous when used in the 1948 Act, Section 3 of which said:Conditions to which this Act applies shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to prevail if … at least one-third of all the goods of that description which are supplied in the United Kingdom or any substantial part thereof are supplied by or to any one person …".Then the question deals with other matters. Therefore, under that Act and as perpetuated by this Bill, one could have in the same industry three monopolies. Nothing could be more ludicrous than the term "Monopolies Commission" in those circumstances. No one could argue that, where one-third of the goods of a certain description were concerned, this was a monopoly.
Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) would propose an alternative. In Committee he suggested "Oligopolistic Commission". He pronounced that word in Committee with more success than I in getting my tongue around it.
§ Mr. Channon
My hon. Friend is right in saying that, in the end, he moved an Amendment referring to "market domination", but at one stage he was arguing for an "Oligopolistic Commission" and later for monopsomy—a term with which we are all familiar. He reminded me of Burke saying:… the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.77 We must also consider what "monopoly" means. The hon. Member for Putney is not strictly accurate in saying that this is merely a question of semantics. We are dealing with a situation in a new Bill and with an inaccurate description which goes against all common sense in the Bill. There are two relevant definitions of "monopoly" in the shorter Oxford Dictionary. The first is:Exclusive possession of the trade in some commodity,".In general, that is not the case under this Bill. The second definition is:The exclusive privilege conferred by the sovereign or the State of selling some commodity or trading with a particular place or country".While my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Van Straubenzee) was speaking earlier, I reflected that, if his new Clause had been accepted, the latter definition would have been relevant but I submit that, since it was not, it is total nonsense even after all these years to go on calling this the "Monopolies Commission".
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
The point I made was not to defend the existing title as being precisely accurate but that there was no case for removing the established existing though slightly inaccurate title in order to replace it with a new one even more inaccurate.
§ Mr. Channon
Of the two titles, "Commission for Competition" is the better. I am surprised, in view of the hon. Gentleman's political views, that he should say that something which has lasted for 17 years although inaccurate should nevertheless go on into the indefinite future. I thought that he wanted nothing to stand in the way of sweeping change. Even the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), whose views would surely commend themselves to the hon. Gentleman, is on record as saying that the name is totally inaccurate and misleading.
During Committee stage, the Minister without Portfolio was put up to defend the name. I think that he had great difficulty in doing so. When the 1948 Act was going through the House, he said that the term "Monopolies Commission" was misleading and he begged the present Prime Minister, who was then 78 in charge of the Bill, to change the name, but without success. Now he finds himself arguing that the name should continue. That, I suppose, is what happens when one gets office in later years and has to reverse one's opinions.
On Third Reading of the 1948 Act, the Prime Minister, then President of the Board of Trade, said:One of the respects in which it is least perfect—and this is something on which we are all agreed—is the name of the Commission and the name of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 2165.]That was true in 1948 and is true today. There is no party issue about this. The Conservative Party was at fault, no doubt, in not changing the name when legislating in 1956. The present Government are at fault in not changing it now.
Many alternative names have been suggestive. In 1948, "Restrictive Business Practices" was favoured but that would be inappropriate now. Names suggested more recently include "National Trade Commission", "Trade and Industry Commission", Market Domination and Mergers Commission", "Trade and Industrial Practices Commission" and "Trade Practices Commission".
During the Committee stage the Minister of State said that he would like to consider the matter again. I am sure that he has done so very carefully. He said that if there was general agreement he would agree to the name "Mergers and Monopolies Commission". Naturally, there was not general agreement on that. The first half would be accurate but the second half would perpetuate the inaccuracy we are concerned about.
We hoped that the Government would have put down on Report an Amendment that would have reflected new and dynamic thinking on the subject. It is true that they have had one or two other things to think about in the last two or three months. But the Minister of State has had some all-night sittings in which to cogitate about the matter. We are disappointed that our alternative suggestion is not accepted.
The term "Commission for Competition" would be better for a variety of reasons. It is shorter, very much nicer and is much more accurate than the present name. It is extremely important to choose a name that gives the impression 79 that we wish to promote competition and that we are not in some way making people who come before the Commission feel that they are being condemned by being sent before it, which some of my hon. Friends have suggested as being the case in the past.
I have always felt that the danger was that, since there was no general agreement on a new name, we would be left with the worst of all possible worlds. That seems to be the situation. There has been no agreement in the House generally about a name. Therefore, we are to be left, possibly for the next 17 years, in the ridiculous state of affairs with a name which no one defends. There is only one name that I have heard that is worse—the "Commission for Socialist Emulation". Anxious though he is, I am sure, to give way on this point, I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will resist the hon. Member for Putney.
I was suspicious when my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford began to quote Humpty Dumpty, although I agreed with the reference, I could not speak for the accuracy of the quotation. When the President of the Board of Trade began to refer to "impenetrability", I was hoping that he would go further in Humpty Dumpty. I am glad for the sake of greater accuracy he has now obtained a copy, for Humpty Dumpty goes on:I meant by 'impenetrability' that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stay here all the rest of your life.The House will be well aware that we do not mean to stay here for the rest of our lives—
§ Mr. Channon
My hon. Friend may wish to stay for the rest of his life, but not for the rest of the night.
Without very great reluctance, I ask the President of the Board of Trade to follow the advice of Humpty Dumpty when Alice says:'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra'".I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has at last agreed to pay the members of 80 the Commission extra in view of his arguments about impenetrability and Alice in Wonderland.
This is not a party matter, but I think that there has been general regret that it has been impossible to find some other and more satisfactory name than "Monopolies Commission". I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has not closed his mind on this issue and that if some alternative can be found in another place, or even in some later legislation, the name will be changed. I hope that the day will not be too far distant when, with the general agreement of the House, we can find some more appropriate name than that which has been in existence for far too long. I cannot advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide the House, although we feel strongly about the matter. But I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not from that deduce that this is not something about which we feel extremely strongly, but that he will continue his researches and at some other time be able to produce a more appropriate name.
§ Mr. Jay
By leave of the House; although I am regretfully unconvinced by the hon. Gentleman and although he found some difficulty getting his tongue around the word "oligopolistic", which is only one syllable fewer than "impenetrability", I should like to congratulate him on what I believe to have been his first appearance at the Box.
§ Mr. Bernard Floud (Acton)
I entirely agree with the sentiments about the present name of the Commission. I made it clear on Second Reading that I wished that we could find a new name. However, the suggested name, "Commission for Competition" is even more misleading, if that is possible, than the present name. As hon. Members will be aware, the basic philosophy of the whole of this legislation is that a monopoly is neither necessarily good nor necessarily bad. It must follow from that equally that competition is neither necessarily good, nor necessarily bad. It seems to follow quite conclusively from that that it would be thoroughly misleading to rename the Commission the "Commission for Competition", which clearly gives the impression that competition in itself is something which must be pursued at all costs.
81 Therefore, while I agree that "Monopolies Commission" is a bad name, "Commission for Competition" gives the impression that competition is to be pursued willy nilly, and that name is therefore rather worse and ought to be resisted.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Lewis Carroll permitting, is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
With this Amendment we can discuss Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 6, at end insert:(e) to provide that not more than seven members of the Commission may be employed as such in a full-time capacity.with the proviso that Mr. Speaker has said that, if the Opposition so require, there can be a Division on Amendment No. 7.
§ Mr. Jay
Amendment No. 4, together with Amendment No. 76 and Amendment No. 78, is put forward in accordance with an assurance given in Committee. It is one of the many Amendments which we have introduced to meet the views of hon. Members and I am happy to think that we shall all agree about it.
These Amendments would permit the Board of Trade at any time to increase the maximum number of members of the Monopolies Commission, as I suppose we may now be allowed to call it. One of the principal purposes of the Bill is to increase the size of the Commission and in its original form the Bill increased the number from 10 to 25. If the Amendment were accepted, the Board of Trade would have power to increase the number by Statutory Instrument at any time to such number as the Board thought fit.
This seems a reasonable and desirable flexibility. I have often thought that we tend to legislate with too great precision and too great rigidity and that in our legislation we 82 sometimes lay down precisely how large some authority should be, or we prescribe over-exact limits of that kind, and it then turns out that it would have been much more sensible to have had a larger or smaller body, or more flexibility in some other respect. I do not believe that it is necessary to limit action as rigidly as that. These things are often better left to discretion and common sense in administration and I am sure that it is sensible to give the Board of Trade this latitude.
I do not know whether it is possible for me to refer to Amendment No. 7 before it has been moved.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is quite in order for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to it. It will be discussed, but it will not be moved except formally for a Division later, if necessary.
§ Mr. Jay
I suppose that I am allowed to know what is in it, or it will be difficult to praise or criticise it.
Amendment No. 7, which has been suggested by hon. Members opposite, would provide for the appointment of up to six deputy-chairmen where the Bill at present provides for only three and would require the chairman and any deputy-chairmen to be appointed in a full-time capacity.
We are not convinced that this would be desirable, for much the same reasons as I have advanced in favour of the Government Amendment. It would impose too much rigidity and would require—it does not merely say "may"—any deputy-chairman and the chairman to be employed in a full-time capacity. As the Bill stands, it will be possible for the Board of Trade to appoint the number of people it thinks most appropriate and to arrange for those who are able to be full time and to add such persons as have the necessary qualifications whether able to work full or only part time. I merely say that we should not limit ourselves unnecessarily if that is to deprive the Board of Trade of flexibility.
§ Mr. Peter Emery
There is a slight error in the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Our Amendment allows for certain members of the Commission to be employed full-time. It is permissive and not mandatory. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to suggest that we propose that they should mandatorily be employed full-time.
§ Mr. Jay
The Amendment certainly provides that there may not be more than the number seven and in that that is a limitation I should have thought that it was undesirable. There is not much between us. The essential point is that we propose to give power to increase the number beyond 25 and we are all agreed that that will be an improvement.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Higgins
I am sure all those on both sides who served on the Committee will welcome the Government Amendments which it is now proposed to insert. In an earlier discussion it was suggested that we should have a "Committee for Competition"—a slip of the tongue—in place of the "Commission for Competition." I think that the Committee which has been working on this Bill deserves this name. It has been anxious to do everything it could to strengthen the legislation and to ensure that the monopoly legislation of this country is improved. Therefore, we all welcome the Government Amendments which are placed before us by the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon. We agree with him that there should be no limit on the number of part-time members, because the amount of work which these people do relative to the cost to the Exchequer is very great indeed. One should pay tribute to those on the Commission who do an enormous amount of work. If more like them can be recruited to help in the work of the Commission I think we should all support it.
The second Government Amendment is concerned with limiting their terms of office. Am I right in thinking—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We must leave that Amendment until we reach it otherwise we shall get confused.
§ Mr. Higgins
In that case I will turn to the Opposition Amendment we have proposed but which has not been selected. I think that the President of the Board of Trade has somewhat misunderstood what this Amendment is about. I should point out that it uses the words:to provide that not more than seven members of the Commission may be employed as such in a full-time capacity.There is no reference to full-time members being employed as chairmen or as deputy-chairmen. We are suggesting 84 that there should be an element of flexibility and, given that the Commission will in future be working in groups, as a general rule it would be desirable that the chairman of each individual group, and possibly the deputy-chairman, should be a full-time member of the Commission. We were not suggesting, as the President of the Board of Trade appears to believe, that the chairman must necessarily be a full-time member. We were simply seeking to increase the number of full-time members, subject to some qualifications which I shall mention in a moment.
We were suggesting that the full-time members should, if necessary, serve as chairmen or deputy-chairmen, but if it was desirable they should serve in some other capacity then they should be allowed to do so. The President of the Board of Trade, when he looks at this again and comes to sum up, will appreciate what I am saying and realise that he has somewhat misunderstood the Amendment. I think it is vital, if the Commission is to work in groups, that there should be a number of full-time members. This is, first, because in the kind of investigation which the Commission is carrying out, a large amount of data will accumulate and the handling of this is something which a full-time member is best qualified to deal with.
Secondly, it is essential for there to be one or two full-time members available on each group of the Commission to whom the permanent staff can refer in cases of doubt and to whom people in the firms which are being investigated may refer at any time. It is quite unreasonable if a firm is being investigated by a part of the Commission, sitting as a separate group, to have no one on that group full-time whom they can consult on a particular query. Unless we have more full-time members we shall inevitably slow down the workings of the Commission, whereas on both sides of the House we are anxious to do everything to ensure that investigations proceed as rapidly as possible. It is unfair for investigations to continue as long as they have done in recent cases—something over four years on occasions.
Finally, we want to have more full-time members because we feel that people on the Commission should be of two kinds. They should be part-time or amateur 85 members, who give their experience to the Commission, and in addition it is desirable to recruit a number of full-time members, who can make work on the Commission their career. For this reason I think it is essential we should make provision for more full-time members to be added to the strength of the Commission.
The Amendment as drafted says that we should provide not more than seven members of the Commission in a full-time capacity. Although this clearly places a limit on the number of full-time members, it is not inconsistent with encouraging the recruitment of more than the present number onto the Commission. We are trying to achieve a balance between the full-time members and the part-time members, and it would be undesirable if there were to be no limits on the full-time members. The balance might be destroyed and the services of some of the voluntary members who serve in addition to their normal work would be lost.
That is the first reason why a limit is suggested. The second reason is because there should clearly be some form of financial control on the number of full-time members. As the legislation stands it is completely open-ended. There is no limit on the number of full-time members, and we feel this should be limited to some extent because it is undesirable that the Board of Trade should have a completely free hand. I should like to stress as strongly as I possibly can to the President of the Board of Trade that the fact that we have imposed a limit for these two good reasons in no way suggests we would not like to see the number of full-time members increased considerably. We on this side of the House would suggest up to a maximum of seven. We would not like to remove from the President of the Board of Trade the right to propose that more full-time members should be appointed.
We feel that there should be a continuing flexibility in this respect. That is why the Amendment, as now drafted, does not specify seven as a maximum and a minimum. What we hope on this occasion is that, as an indication of the good will which has been exchanged on the Floor of the Committee, the President of the Board of Trade will at this stage, 86 or some later stage in the passage of the Bill, take the opportunity to announce that he is going to appoint seven full-time members who will take up their duties at the earliest possible moment.
I think that the hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, Board of Trade was rather pessimistic in winding up the debate on this matter in Committee when he said that perhaps three or four could be found to serve as full-time members of the Commission. I am quite sure that there are a very large number of people, well qualified, who could be found to serve as full-time members of this Commission, and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade, subject to the limits we have suggested for the two reasons I have given, will take the earliest opportunity to appoint them.
Mr. J. T. Price
I hope I shall not be thought ungracious if I intervene briefly to say that I, for one, do not fully share the views expressed on this Amendment, either by the President of the Board of Trade or by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins). I say that not with any intention of destroying the atmosphere of harmony which seems to have descended upon our deliberations but purely because I am always deeply apprehensive about any executive having an unfettered discretion to do what it likes. I say that without apology to members of my own Government or to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am quite impartial and quite liberal-minded. This idea that in all circumstances an executive can be trusted to act judiciously when it is in possession of an unfettered discretion to appoint as many as it likes, and whom it likes to a particular office, is something that I would regard as doubtful social policy.
I hope that we shall get first-class men to man the Commission and that its work will succeed, but it should be said in the House without malice or acrimony, or without wishing to be polemical, that if it is known that the Government, whatever their colour, have an unfettered discretion to multiply the numbers on bodies of this sort we might be setting up some kind of breeder reactor, to use a term of the Atomic Energy Authority, because people who operate in the same professional fields have a sort of freemasonry among themselves. [An HON. MEMBER: 87 "Jobs for the boys."] Somebody says, "Jobs for the boys". That may be so. I was being less controversial. Like many hon. Members, I am sufficiently knowledgeable about the conditions which obtain to know that once we put a charmed circle in a position of authority it will increase its scope and numbers by bringing other people within it. This goes for lawyers. There are one or two very distinguished lawyers sitting in the House, and I never want to fall out with them. I just want to have a bit of fun occasionally.
I do not want to elaborate this. I think that I should sit down, having made my protest. I do not want to waste time. I want the Bill to get the Royal Assent as quickly as possible. However, I did not want to let this opportunity pass without making it clear that, since it seemed to be assumed that there was a unanimous opinion on this matter, I am not fully in sympathy with the idea. There should always be a limit on the powers vested in any executive, particularly a Government Ministry. I hope that these few desultory remarks will be taken in the spirit in which I have delivered them. I take it that there will not be a Division on the Amendment so that I shall not be embarrassed by having to go through the Opposition Lobby. I can therefore speak with greater abandon. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am being objective. Hon. Members opposite should not twit me when I am trying to say something in a few simple words without any semantic obfuscation, or anything like that. It should be put on record that the House is critical of unfettered power being given to any executive.
§ Sir D. Glover
It is not often that the representatives of the constituencies of Ormskirk and Westhoughton, which run parallel to each other in Lancashire, speak on the same subject in unison. I tried to speak when the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) was called to say almost exactly what I proposed to say. This shows that what Lancashire thinks today perhaps England will think tomorrow.
Last week we celebrated the 700th anniversary of this ancient House. If former Members of the House, over its 700 years' history, had expressed the views 88 expressed by the hon. Member for Westhoughton, with which I agree, the Executive would not be as powerful as it is and the House would have a great deal more authority than it has. The House does not have the obligation to produce legislation in detail. That is for the Executive. It is a great strength to the House that the Executive works inside its walls. But the House, as a House, is a different body from the Executive. The Executive are only part of the House, and the House collectively has a much greater responsibility to control the affairs of the Executive and the funds which it provides to enable them to carry out their policies.
I agree with the hon. Member for Westhoughton that any legislation which gives the Executive power to appoint more people without let or hindrance is bad. If there is a necessity to increase the numbers, then it is the responsibility of the Government to get the authority of the House to do it. Therefore, having debated the matter in Committee and realising the need for more chairmen for this and for that, I have a great deal of sympathy with the views expressed on both sides of the House, and it was a very good thing that the hon. Member for Westhoughton placed on record the fact that this House should not pass legislation which gives the Executive carte blanche. It is our responsibility so to frame our legislation that the House understands what will happen as a result of it. We are getting very near the line on these two Amendments, which give the Executive more power than they should have.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery
I am struck with some terror when I find that there is agreement on a matter of fair sweetness and light between the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). I think that we can take what they have said as being a reasoned and reasonable approach to Government powers. May I take their argument a stage further as it applies to the Amendment. It is proposed to give power to appoint people to hurry up matters for the benefit of industry and of the people being investigated. Therefore, although I would normally 89 agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk, I believe that the open-ended commitment in the Amendment goes a certain way to meet the points made by my hon. Friends in Committee when we were, and are, very concerned that the work and reports of the Commission should be dealt with more expeditiously than in the past.
The President of the Board of Trade, during the debate on the White Paper on monopolies and mergers, said:I still find it hard to believe that the new procedure will speed things up …. We are, of course, to have a larger Commission again; but it is also to have the job of investigating mergers, and, on balance, I do not see any evidence that the delays of the past are likely to be lessened."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 56.]He then found himself in the position of having limited himself in the Bill to 25 members. In Committee we pressed very strongly that this number should be increased. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk may be interested to know that we propose a limit in our Amendment but that we are willing to accept the Government's Amendment. I take the point that what is needed is flexibility.
On that note, I turn to the next Amendment, because it seems to me that it gives flexibility but allows the Board of Trade to employ a number of highly-trained and skilled people who perhaps will be able to pursue a career in the service of the Commission. Although we have not gone so far as to stipulate that it must be the chairman of any sub-division of the Commission who carries out the investigation, we thought that it might be a useful asset that the chairman should be a person employed in a full-time capacity. We thought that we might help in the cause of flexibility by making provision for the Commission to employ a number of full-time employees who would permanently be available to serve the Commission in its investigations.
We realise that we are dealing with the investigation not only of monopolies but of mergers. It would be wrong of me to mention later Amendments which deal with speeding up the work of the Commission, but it is essential that there should be not only flexibility but people available permanently to enable the Commission to carry out its work with the greatest speed and thoroughness. In the 90 concept of flexibility, we felt that it would be easier in Amendment No. 7 to provide for a number of full-time employees and for the Commission to use specialists who were brought in for specific investigations or inquiries which might be referred to it.
I would be critical to some extent of the lack of use of specialists when certain considerations have been applied by the Commission in the past. It is important that we should have industrial experts who understand the problem whether of a merger or of a monopolistic practice. Such specialists might be seconded from industry for two or three months to deal with a specific inquiry. If the stage was reached of having to continue investigations for two or three years, there would be little chance of getting men of the calibre whom I would wish to see to give to the permanent members the specialist knowledge which is so obviously necessary.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
The hon. Member constantly refers to men. Is he recommending the exclusion of women?
§ Mr. Emery
No. I was using a purely legalistic term, in that respect, men and women might be synonymous. I have heard that "man" embraces "woman". That, however, is a debate which is perhaps taking place in another place. I do not intend to be drawn away from the Amendment. Quite obviously, there are women specialists who could serve on the Commission. I understand the way in which the hon. Member for Westhoughton presented his argument about jobs for the boys, but I do not think that it applies to these Amendments.
I end by quoting a document from the Federation of British Industries which, I know, has been sent to the President of the Board of Trade. It states:The F.B.I. has frequently complained that the staff of the Monopolies Commission and the members of the Monopolies Commission are sometimes inadequate in knowledge, training and experience and that it was this inadequancy which made investigations so long and laborious. An improved staff would be desirable in any event. The provisions about mergers make this essential.I hope that those remarks about the enlargement and improvement of the staff will be kept in mind by the President of the Board of Trade, as well as the question of an increase in maximum numbers.
91 I should like the right hon. Gentleman to read carefully what has been said in this debate concerning the number of full-time members of the Commission. I do not ask for any major undertaking, but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be useful for the Board of Trade to be able to appoint a larger number of full-time members. If he feels that that is desirable, he will be able to rectify the position in another place.
§ Mr. Jay
I hesitate to intervene again, but I should like to clarify one or two points. I do not like to disturb the harmony between the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), but they have failed to consider carefully enough the Amendments which I am introducing. The two hon. Members complained that the Board of Trade is being given power without let or hindrance and without any Parliamentary sanction or control to the appointment of an indefinite number of people. If, however, they refer to Amendments Nos. 76 and 78, they will find that the former, in Schedule 1, page 20, line 10, states:the Board may from time to time by order made by statutory instrument increase the maximum number of memberswhilst Amendment No. 78, in page 20, line 27, states:A statutory instrument made under this paragraph shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.There will, therefore, be Parliamentary control. It will be quite possible for either hon. Member to persuade the House to annul an order made by the Board of Trade.
Mr. J. T. Price
My right hon. Friend is now trailing his coat. Let me say this to him. I happen to be a member of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments of the House of Commons and I find that almost half of the Statutory Instruments which come before that Committee upstairs for consideration, whether they are in order before they are dealt with, are already in operation before they are laid upon the Table of the House. This is a serious criticism of which, I hope, my right hon. Friend will 92 take notice. The system of Statutory Instruments in its present form is being grossly abused and I do not pay much attention to it in relation to the Bill.
§ Mr. Jay
That is a criticism of the whole system and not of the Amendment.
The hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) disputed my statement that the Opposition Amendments would have limited the power of the Board of Trade and would give it less flexibility. I had studied not merely the Amendment which was before us, but Opposition Amendments, in particular Amendment No. 80, in Schedule 1, page 20, line 31. We study all Amendments which are put down and not merely those which are called. That Amendment states:and the chairman and all deputy chairmen shall be employed as members of the Commission in a full-time capacity".I understand that that Amendment is not being called and that hon. Members opposite are not pressing that suggestion.
That being so, we are brought back to Amendment No. 7, which states:to provide that not more than seven members of the Commission may be employed as such in a full-time capacity.The only effect of making that change in the Bill would be this. As the Bill stands, it is possible for the Board of Trade to appoint five, six, seven, eight, nine or as many persons in a full-time capacity as it considers desirable. The effect of the Amendment would be to say that it must not appoint more than seven. Therefore, it would merely limit the number who could be appointed in that way. This would be the effect simply of adopting the one Amendment which hon. Members opposite now propose, since the other Amendments are not being pressed. It would, therefore, simply limit our ability to appoint these extra members if we wished to do so. No case has been made for that.
I fully agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) that we should study the debate and that there probably is a strong case, as it is possible to do under the Bill, for appointing specialists and, possibly, full-time specialists for particular inquiries by the Commission. Nothing major is now left between us and I hope that the House will agree to the Amendment.
§ Sir D. Glover
The President of the Board of Trade attacked me for what I said in my speech. I ought to point out to him that he is rather anticipating. He has referred to the fact that certain Amendments would remove the objections of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) and of myself. Those Amendments, however, have not yet become part of the Bill. They are Amendments still to be discussed.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
I beg to move, Amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 18, to leave out from the first "members" to the end of line 20 and to insert:without limiting their total term of office".I think that with this Amendment we are also discussing Amendment No. 77 which is consequential to it, in Schedule 1, page 20, line 17.
This also carries out an undertaking given in Committee, that we would consider removing the 12-year ceiling upon the appointment of any member of the Commission, a ceiling which has existed since the 1948 legislation. I think that this also is unduly unrestrictive. It might mean that a useful and valuable member of the Commission could not be reappointed, possibly even in the middle of an inquiry into a monopoly or merger, because the 12-year limit had been reached. I myself have never thought that absolutely rigid age limits, or termination of a possible period of appointment, are very sensible, when we all know that different individuals have different capacities which last to a different age, and survive for a different number of years. I think that the Committee was quite right to suggest this extra degree of flexibility and I hope the House will approve it.
§ Mr. John Hall
At the close of my remarks on Second Reading I said:We rest assured that the Government will co-operate with us, as we will co-operate with them, in improving the Bill for the benefit 94 of industry and for the economy of the country as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 1321.]We think we have succeeded in doing this very well, because this is one of what will be a series of Amendments which follow our deliberations in Committee upstairs and which, especially in this case, are a tribute to the perseverence, first of my hon. Friends who pressed this particular Amendment on the Government despite the fact that in the first place it was rejected, and also, of course, to the good sense and intelligence of right hon. and hon. Members opposite in accepting the words of wisdom which were uttered from this side. I am certain that during the debates which will follow on Amendments which we have yet to consider we shall be hearing time and time again from the Government benches resounding and heartfelt and sincere tributes to the help given by this side in improving the Bill. This Amendment is almost in the form of that which we originally moved. Therefore, we welcome the Amendment very much. We think it is an improvement to the Bill.
§ Mr. Higgins
I do not want to delay the House for more than a minute, but I think we should emphasise how much we appreciate this Amendment and that it will make it easier for full-time members to be appointed. In Committee the Minister of State said, as I have mentioned earlier, that he thought that there would be only three or four members who could be found to serve in a full-time capacity on the Commission. We do very much hope that an early announcement will be made by the Government saying they do propose to appoint more full-time members, and that as a result of having accepted what was our Amendment they are prepared to appoint such members to serve full-time.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. George Darling)
I think my remarks are being misunderstood, largely because I did not explain myself clearly enough. If I recollect aright, I was talking hypothetically, saying, "Suppose we could get only three or four members". That, at least, was my intention. I was not intending to suggest it would be possible to get only three or four.
§ Amendment agreed to.95
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Sir Eric Fletcher)
I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 1, to leave out paragraph (c).
It may be convenient at the same time to consider Amendments Nos. 81 and 82, in Schedule 1, page 23, line 44, and in page 24, line 42.
This Amendment, for the elimination of Clause 1(2,c), is really consequential on the Amendment which the House has just been considering and has accepted. Under the Bill as it stood it was desired that there should be power to extend the period of office of members of the Commission for six months, but now that that period of appointment is unlimited this power is unnecessary, and we therefore suggest that it should be removed.
§ Mr. John Hall
This continues the good work of improving the Bill. I am particularly glad the Amendment was moved by the Minister without Portfolio because he promised in Committee that he would look at this point and said he would consider as an alternative an Amendment to the same end might be achieved by extending the period of six months. The Government have gone rather further than we did in extending the period.
It is clear that the Minister of State, who said he wished to preserve an open mind, has done that very thing. In the past an open mind has been defined as one so open a wind whistles through it. I would not say that that applies in this case to the hon. Gentleman. He has applied an open mind to the problem and introduced an Amendment we on this side of the House certainly support.
§ Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, Amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 6, at the end to insert:(e) to make provision for the carrying out of steps preliminary to the investigation by the Commission of matters referred to it.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment we can also consider Amendment No. 9, in line 16, at end insert:(4) Before proceeding upon any investigation pursuant to a reference made under section 2(1) of the principal Act the Commission shall—
- (a) direct one of their officers to make a preliminary investigation of the facts which appear to him, to be material to the subject matter of such reference and of the questions
96 and issues likely to arise upon the investigation thereof by the Commission and to state in a report to the Commission the nature of such facts, questions and issues; and
- (b) send to any person who appears to them to have an interest in the subject matter of such reference a copy of such report.
In Committee we had a long debate on the subject of whether or not there should be a registrar, and I see from the OFFICIAL REPORT that, urging that course, I made a speech which extends over 12 columns. We still think we were right about that.
We do not wish to return to it in its full, fine glory: the Amendment is for a mini-Registrar; a half. It is best set out in Amendment No. 9, that one of the Commission should be directedto make a preliminary investigation of the facts which appear to him to be material to the subject matter of such reference and of the questions and issues likely to arise upon the investigation thereof …It is, therefore, to describe the orbit of the reference, and toreport to the Commission the nature of such facts, questions and issuesand to send a copy of that report, which limits the field of the inquiry, to anybody who, he thinks, has an interest in the subject matter.
This will help to secure one of the objects which we had in our original proposal; it will define the issues at an early stage of the proceedings rather more closely. Of course, under this proceeding the member of the Commission so chosen would not have the duty of deciding what reference should be made. That would remain, as the Government have always insisted it should, upon the Board of Trade, and would not go to the Registrar. There will in fact be no registrar, but one member of the Commission, we think, should have this function of defining the orbit of the inquiry as far as possible, defining the issues to be included, and to inform interested parties of his findings. We think that this would result in greater speed, and also, and more important, in greater fairness, in that those persons whose interests were affected would know at an early stage exactly the sort of matters which they would be expected to answer, where the crux of the inquiry was likely to come, what sort of evidence they ought to produce, and directed to what points, instead of the sort of roving commission by which 97 an inquiry now proceeds in the first few weeks or even months. If the issues and the orbit can be defined by this preliminary report it is obvious that the actual inquiry will be quicker and will be much fairer.
When I say that this is really only half a Registrar, or a mini-Registrar, I do not wish to decry the importance of the proposal, but merely to say that it does not include in the functions of such a person the proposed equal, if not more important, function of choosing the actual reference to be made. It goes some way to meet the important principle originally set out in the valuable pamphlet, "Monopoly and Public Interest" published by the Conservative Political Centre, on which such splendid praise was lavished from both sides of the Committee upstairs, the important principle of the separation of the functions of presentation and adjudication.
We envisage that one member of the Commission will present the case to his fellows, he having done all the preliminary work, and having told the parties what they must expect in the way of the field of inquiry and the points of inquiry. That will, I think, be acceptable to the people who are to be investigated, the industries, or professions, or commercial gentlemen, or whoever it is, because they will know at an earlier stage exactly what they have to meet, and I think it will mean that the actual sittings of the full Commission will be far fewer and far more effective.
§ Mr. Darling
The hon and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) has really moved two Amendments. The first one, I suggest, is not necessary for his purpose. In fact, if it is intended as a paving Amendment, it is technically defective, because if he reads Clause 1 he will see that it says:The constitution of the Monopolies Commission, the discharge of its functions and other matters dealt with in Schedule 1 to this Act shall be governed by the provisions there set out, being provisions which reproduce, with the modifications mentioned below, …What the hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to do in the first Amendment is to modify something that is not there in the Schedule, which is rather a difficult exercise; but I do not want to labour this point, because I think that the 98 second Amendment stands by itself and does not require the paving Amendment.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, the second Amendment covers two points. First, it provides for one of the staff of the Monopolies Commission to discharge some of the functions suggested by the previous Administration for a Registrar of Monopolies, although not under that name. The second part of it provides that the official report to the Commission on the issues likely to arise in an investigation should be made available to all persons who have an interest in the subject of the inquiry.
I must begin by congratulating the hon. and learned Gentleman for so adroitly finding a way to criticise again the Government's decision not to provide for the appointment of a Registrar of Monopolies in the Bill. This is an issue which we discussed very fully in Committee. As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, we had 12 columns from him alone. It was not by any means a wasted discussion. I thought that it was a very useful one, and I also thought that I had convinced the Committee that, however strong was the case for appointing a registrar, it would be wrong to try to include it in this legislation at this time. I said that I had a great deal of sympathy with the idea of appointing a Registrar, but I felt that it would cause difficulties, which we discussed in Committee.
The Second part of the Amendment raises again the allegation that was made in Committee, if I might put it like that, that the rambling or roving procedure of the Commission means that people do not know in good time the issues that are to be regarded as important, and the case that they have to answer.
On the first point, the absence of a provision for an independent Registrar, I do not think that there is anything new to say, except that I think a mini-Registrar is certainly not a real substitute for the Registrar. I think that we shall have to consider appointing a Registrar at a later stage, in the later legislation, but certainly not in this Bill.
I think that we made it clear in Committee, and certainly we were advised, that the necessary provisions for the appointment of a Registrar would be very 99 lengthy and complex. We have decided to achieve by other means the advantages that might have resulted from the provision of a Registrar. The Commission will be enlarged. It will be able to work in groups or panels. The staff will be increased, and we feel that to adopt the first part of the Amendment would only delay the new start that we want to make with the Commission and the new procedures which the Commission will follow.
As I have said, the second part of Amendment No. 9 implies that the Monopolies Commission's present procedure is not adequate, and that the issues which emerge as important in the Commission's report may not have been fully debated with the parties concerned. I think that this allegation is frequently made, but in fact the procedure which is followed in the Commission's investigations should in practice ensure that the authorities know which issues are likely to be significant after the Commission's preliminary factual investigations.
I do not think that we can put this job on to one member of the Commission. It is a job for the staff of the Commission. The Commission transmits to the industry concerned in the investigation a statement of the issues which the Commission believes it will have to consider. A note of the complaints which have reached the Commission is also sent out to the industry concerned, and after this has been done, and after the industry has been informed of the facts which have emerged from the preliminary investigation, a public interest hearing is then held with the industry concerned to discuss all the points.
Thus, the present procedure does in fact give us the investigation, the submission to the industry of the facts, the submission to the industry concerned of the case that has to be considered, and gives the industry an opportunity of presenting its side of the picture. We do not, therefore, think that it is necessary, or appropriate, for this legislation to require the Commission to follow a particular procedure with the object of informing an industry of the relevant issues. I think that this is something which in practice must be left to the Commission, but the method which the 100 Commission has adopted for its work, and the method which will continue, will I think prove on examination to be satisfactory for the purpose which the hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind.
Certainly at this stage we do not want unnecessary delay in the investigation of monopolies or mergers. Some of the references which have been announced will, of course, fall to the new Commission to look into, and we do not want to delay the building up of the staff. We do not want to delay the work which has to be done. We fear that if the Amendments were accepted they would add very little, if anything, to the value of the Bill in this respect and that in some ways they would be detrimental to it; certainly they would cause delay, which at this stage we do not want to contemplate. I therefore cannot advise the House to accept the Amendments.
§ Mr. Peter Emery
In column 162 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 27th April, 1965, I read:I have been expecting hon. Members to look up the debate on the Restrictive Practices Act in which I made a cogent plea for the appointment of a Registrar to deal with monopolies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 27th April, 1965; c. 162.]That was said by the Minister of State for the Board of Trade, who has just suggested that the Registrar is not necessary.
§ Mr. Peter Emery
I have gone to the trouble of looking up reports of some of his speeches. He made a number of speeches about the Registrar and the Monopolies Commission, and I will bore neither the House nor him by quoting them. The speech which I liked most is reported in column 153 of the debate on 6th July, 1964, in which he said:It is for this reason that I believe that all proposed mergers should be reported in confidence to the Registrar.…. The right hon. Gentleman hopes that this will happen in practice without any need to write it into legislation, but I think that it should be written in."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 153.]We agree with the Minister of State; we think that it should be written in the legislation and that this is the right place to do it. I also agree with him in congratulating my hon. and learned Friend 101 the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) on finding yet another means of keeping in order this debate on the Registrar. We know only too well that, because of the narrow limitations of the Financial Resolution, we have had considerable trouble in keeping in order in debating this very important subject of the future organisation of the Monopolies Commission. Because of that difficulty we have had to use this rather emaciated form of Registrar. There can be little doubt in my hon. Friends' minds that a full Registrar with full powers would be the ideal. But if we cannot get that we believe that the Government are being very foolish if they will not accept the need for the establishment of a Registrar in the Bill to carry out the forms of inquiry which we have suggested.
I will not go over the debates which took place in Committee, but I must refer to the fact that two Government supporters in the Committee spoke fully in agreement: with the proposal that this matter should be pursued. I am delighted to see one of them, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell), enter the Chamber. I hope that he will remain here and make yet another powerful speech on the subject, because I must tell him that we are still having trouble with the Government about it.
It is not good enough that we should be fobbed off, as we were in Committee, with the argument that this is not the right time to start with a Registrar and that it must be done in later legislation. Here we have a complete revision of monopolies legislation.
§ Mr. Emery
Nearly complete. It is certainly not complete if we have no Registrar. Perhaps the Minister of State will nod his head about that, because I am convinced that those are his views, too. Why does not the Bill provide for a Registrar? The Minister of State argues that it would delay the work of the Monopolies Commission, but I cannot think how it would cause delay. The only delay could arise from the formation of the Department and the appointment of the man and, knowing how the Government have anticipated legislation such as the Control of Office and Industrial Development Bill, I am convinced that if they accepted the Amendment, then by the 102 time the Bill received Royal Assent they would be able to appoint a Registrar because they would have had some name in mind.
Would there be a delay in building up the Department and recruiting staff? The Minister of State shakes his head. That recruitment would have to be done in any case. The economists, the lawyers and all the rest of the staff needed to carry out the investigation would have to be recruited anyway. We suggest that it would have to be centralised in one Department under the Registrar. Industry would then know that they were dealing with the Registrar.
I was about to say that I am beside myself with the Government for their attitude, but that, of course, is not true. Nevertheless, I cannot understand why they wish to resist this proposal so strongly. There is nothing political in it. We are trying to provide a better method of investigation by which industry will know exactly who is carrying out the investigation, by which we ensure that someone is in charge of the investigation and by which we ensure that he is responsible for seeing that the investigation is speeded up. If there is any delay in the investigation and if we have a Registrar responsible, we shall know where to put the blame. Without him the blame may be dispersed throughout the Board of Trade or throughout the Commission.
The Government have not offered a reasonable case in answer to our arguments. We accept that the Amendment is not perfect. To remain in order we have had to word it to keep within the Financial Resolution and not to impose extra financial responsibilities. Because part of the Amendment is not as good as we should like, we should be foolish to force it to a Division, but my hon. Friends remain convinced that this form of organisation is not only essential but ought to be introduced now. It is a crying shame that the Government will not take the opportunity to start it in the Bill.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Higgins
My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) may not be beside himself, but we on this side of the House are right beside him in support of the Amendment. When we debated this matter on Second Reading, in Committee and again now, it has 103 clearly emerged that there is basically agreement on both sides of the House, and yet the only explanation offered by the Government for refusing to accept the Amendment is that it would delay matters. The proposal for a Registrar was first introduced some months ago, and there is no reason why arrangements could not have been made in the interim for the appointment of the Registrar and his staff. I therefore hope that even at this late stage the Government will reconsider the matter and, at some later point, introduce a full-blooded Registrar.
The Amendment will enable the transition from the present situation to a full-blooded Registrar to be carried out fairly easily. It is very important that we should, in the field of monopolies, get away from the position where the decision to refer a particular industry, or a particular group of firms, to the Commission is in the hands of the Board of Trade, where it inevitably must be subject to a certain number of political cross-currents. It should be placed in the hands of a body which is both impartial and seen to be impartial.
It is for this reason that we on this side and hon. Members opposite have felt obliged to press the proposal for a Registrar. If we were to go to the interim suggestion which has been put forward by accepting these Amendments, or Amendments similarly worded, we should be able to establish a certain division of labour within the Commission's work. It is important that the earlier stages of an investigation, which are concerned with the collection of data on market shares and with the definition of the market which is said to be monopolised, should be carried out rapidly. This part of the work could reasonably be carried out by a mini-registrar and a particular section of the Commission's staff, because it is highly specialised and, at the same time, a purely factual investigation.
The trouble in many recent investigations is that the boards of companies and their very senior executives are involved in the investigation right from the beginning, through perhaps three or four years. They are, therefore, prevented from doing work on which they would be better employed—in increasing production or increasing exports. If the purely fact-finding part of the investigation 104 were handed to a mini-registrar and a particular part of the staff, they could deal at a lower level with those preparing the basic data, and they could present the basic case which is to be answered.
I do not think that hon. Members on either side of the House would like to see any form of inquisitorial approach substituted for the Commission's approach. But we do think there is a case for the preliminary investigation to be dealt with in the way suggested. If the Government are not prepared to accept our proposals for a full-blooded Registrar at this stage, they should accept a reasonable transitional arrangement which goes some way towards it. We believe that if the investigations are split up in the way suggested the division of labour between the company, the mini-registrar and the mini-registrar's staff would be more efficient. It is for that reason that we hope, even at this late stage, that if he will not concede a full-blooded Registrar the President of the Board of Trade will at least concede a transitional arrangement of the kind we suggest in these Amendments.
§ Mr. John Harvey (Walthamstow, East)
It was not my intention to intervene, because I did not have the advantage of serving on the Committee which tried to make some sense of this Bill. However, I had the advantage of serving for many months in 1962 and 1963 on the Committee appointed by Lord Butler which produced the booklet "Monopoly and the Public Interest" to which my hon. Friend has referred. In that Committee, we took expert evidence from all sorts of people who might be affected by this legislation. We considered in great detail American practice and Common Market practice, and all the evidence supported the need for a Registrar.
We have been reminded that the Minister of State's past utterances have supported this need, too. It is a crying shame that a Bill purporting to improve legislation in regard to monopolies and mergers should not provide for this vital point. In doing this, apart from the fact that it fails to divide the work in the way various of my hon. Friends have suggested, it also fails—and this is most important—to assure those who may be referred to the Commission of the complete fairness, which would be assured if 105 the work of the Commission as judges were separated from the work of the Commission as the body preparing the case it is to judge. This surely is the great advantage that the appointment of a registrar would give. So, having studied this problem in immense detail for those 10 months or so, I join those who urge the Government, even at this late stage, to think again about their present attitude.
§ Mr. Darling
My views have not changed, and I wish to say on behalf of my right hon. Friend that this matter is still open. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. John Harvey) will see from the Committee proceedings that the reason I gave for not including the Registrar in this legislation was that given by the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath), who pointed out when we were discussing the White Paper the complexities of this legislation and how difficult it was to produce a comprehensive Bill which, in our view, would have covered the point about the Registrar and also would have covered paragraphs 28 to 41 in the White Paper, which are not in this legislation.
The difficulties were such that we could not bring the Registrar into this legislation, which was introduced within a few weeks of our taking office, when we started from scratch and produced as quickly as possible the legislation, which was long overdue, to deal with mergers and the other things that are in the Bill. To have included the Registrar at that stage would have been too big an exercise, because anyone who cares to look at the Restrictive Trade Practices Act of 1956 will find that the duties and legal responsibilities of the Registrar take up more than half the legislation.
However, I would remind hon. Members that the Government will have a second bite at the cherry within the not-too-distant future, and we will see then whether it is possible to carry out the wishes which hon. Members opposite have expressed. I myself am sorry that we could not do it in this legislation.
Before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, may I say that we are delighted to hear that the Government are committed in principle to a Registrar.
§ Mr. Darling
No. Let me make this clear. I said very carefully indeed that my views have not changed and that my right hon. Friend has an open mind.
That means that half the Government are committed and that we are to have something on these lines within the foreseeable future. With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir Eric Fletcher
I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 2, line 34 to leave out "free of charge or".
The Amendment arises out of the debate we had in Committee. The effect would be to enable the Board of Trade to refer to the Monopolies Commission some enterprise where services of a particular nature were rendered free of charge. I find it difficult to envisage circumstances in which a purely charitable activity could require investigation by the Monopolies Commission, but it may be so. The suggestion was made by the Opposition in Committee, and we are not averse to accepting an Amendment which appears to us to be of an entirely innocuous character merely because it is put forward by the Opposition. If they desire this change in the Bill, we feel there is no objection to it, and I therefore hope it will be accepted by the House.
§ Mr. John Hall
I am delighted to learn from the Minister without Portfolio that he is not averse to accepting Amendments merely because they happen to have been suggested from this side of the House or, as it was, from this side of the Committee. This is fortunate, because most of the Amendments were moved by my right hon. and hon. Friends. Practically all the improvements to the Bill result from the hard work put in by my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The Amendment is in exactly the same words as that which we moved in Committee. It was moved by us originally because we thought that the words as they stood might provide some loophole, especially in the case of professional services which, taking advantage of the words, "free of charge", might manage to opt out of the purview of the Clause. This was one of the principal reasons why we tabled the Amendment.
107 The Government brought out the point that the words were inserted only in order to take out of the Bill any suggestion that charitable enterprises should come within the purview of the Clause. That was the only point which the Government made in Committee. It is a point which the Minister without Portfolio referred to again this evening. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said in a very cogent speech in Committee:… there may be an occasion when workers in this field, who are utterly absorbed in and sometimes obsessed with their work, may try to keep the work entirely within their association or society, and adopt an attitude to prevent others helping. They are just as likely to do that if they give their services free as if they are paid."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E; 29th April, 1965, c. 169.]This is another reason why discretion should be given to the Board of Trade. The removal of these words will ensure that the Board of Trade will have power, if it wishes, to deal with the matter as it thinks fit.
We are delighted that the Government has seen fit to table an Amendment in exactly the same words as that which was originally proposed. We on this side very much welcome the change, as we shall be doing throughout the whole of the night as other Amendments which we originated in Committee are moved by the Government.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Peter Emery
I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 2, line 35, at the end to insert:other than a contract of service the principal terms of which have been negotiated by any body representing one or more of the parties to such contract and also other persons having a similar interest whether as employers or employees".This is an Amendment somewhat similar to new Clause 2. Here, instead of dealing with the problems of nationalised industries, we are attempting to ensure that there are no specific exceptions in a Bill which seeks to include all contracts of services. This would mean that trade unions and the trade union movement could, if necessary be referred to the Commission.
It may be argued that this is not the most ideal method of dealing with problems 108 which are involved with trade unions at this time. I accept that immediately. The Bill sets out to bring in all forms of professions, whether it is solicitors or accountants and no matter whether those involved have spent many years training to obtain their professional qualifications. Therefore, we believe that it is nonsense to take in some sections of the community who provide services, whilst others who may be serving under a contract of service are excluded.
May I clear up one other part of the Amendment which is, perhaps, the lesser part. The Amendment would ensure that lawyers in industry, accountants working on their own, and professional persons of that type, could be effected by the working of the Commission. It could be argued that the Bill, without the Amendment, would not cover these people.
I will state why we believe that power should exist to refer to the Commission monopolistic practices by the trade union movements. There can be little doubt that the problem of strikes, the size of the trade union movement and, indeed, the authority of the trade union movement, are causing great public concern. It may well be true that the number of days lost by strikes in this country is not as great as that applicable in other countries. However, the number of days lost by strikes here is appreciable. An analysis of the figures shows that 1.4 per cent. of the working population is on strike for one week a year. This may not be very much, but it is too much in this day and age when the country is concerned specifically with the problems of productivity and with attempting to ensure that everybody pulls his weight in order to increase our exports and our industrial production. A closer analysis of the figures shows that it is the equivalent of 88,750 people being on strike for a month.
We cannot afford that number of stoppages at this time. A Royal Commission is now considering the whole problem of the trade unions. In time, the recommendations of the Commission will be considered by the House and there will probably be new legislation. Despite this, there is no reason why the Government should not take this opportunity, perhaps only as a stop-gap 109 measure, to consider using the Commission when monopolistic practices are carried out by unions.
I want to refer to the type of thing which gives trade unions a bad name. I am a paid up member of a trade union, the same one as that of the Prime Minister. It is interesting to note that that union of the Prime Minister's does not support the prices and incomes policy, but I do not think that is particularly relevant to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Emery
I am glad to have your agreement, Mr. Speaker. In this instance there is a general problem in that the public is becoming absolutely and completely exasperated by the apparent inability of the Government to take any action to investigate the actions of trade unions in certain circumstances. I want to refer to something which is uppermost in the minds of many people, namely, tie recent strike at London Airport. It was an unofficial strike, against the advice of the trade union officials. It affected tens of thousands of holidaymakers. It brought the condemnation of the Minister of Labour in these words:The present dispute that has caused so much inconvenience to thousands of people is a disgrace.Actually, this is a dispute between men and their union … and because of this scores of children are held at the airport. Thousands of holidaymakers have all their arrangements upset".The problem here is that the Government are powerless to take any action to see whether the Monopolies Commission or anybody could come to a judgment about this sort of action. Here again one sees a vast union with considerable influence, a good deal of it for good, but which is not at all times able to control properly some of the actions of its members. I do not want to pontificate on what should or should not happen, but I say that if the Government are taking powers which could affect lawyers, solicitors and many of the other professions in this country, it does not seem right that the Government should say that the ordinary working population should not be covered by this legislation.
We are not in this Amendment attempting to mount an attack on trade unions. It 110 is not suggested that because we supported another part of the Bill we are willing to attack lawyers, solicitors or doctors. What we are saying, as we said when we dealt with the Amendments on the matter of the nationalised industries, is that the Government having decided to extend the whole scope of the Monopolies Commission in this Bill to cover many wider sections of the community than the original White Paper presented by my right lion. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) 15 months ago envisaged, we on this side of the House believe there is every reason to ensure that no section of the community should be given special treatment. All sections of the community should be open to the same sort of preference. It is for that reason that we have in this Amendment the words:the principal terms of which have been negotiated by any body representing one or more of the parties to such contract …The Government use honeyed words about wishing to ensure an improvement in productivity and in the actions of the trade union movement, and here they have an opportunity to show that these words really mean something. As I say, once we have a Report from the Royal Commission, it may be that this form of reference would not be necessary, but it seems to me that this power could be helpful not only to the President of the Board of Trade but also to the Minister of Labour. Therefore, we on this side of the House would be willing to see this power given to the Government, although we would hope that a better, longer-lasting and thorough form of legislation should be the outcome of the Royal Commission. However, until we have a Report from the Royal Commission and until action is taken by whichever Government it may be—I believe it will be a Conservative Government—this Amendment would go a long way in helping people to realise that there is no section of the community—industrial, trade union or Government—that could be above reference to the Monopolies Commission if it were so desired.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham)
One of the distinctive features of the Bill is that for the first time in our consideration of monopolies, services will be included. Services are taken into account in the monopolies legislation of other countries, 111 but in other countries those services are specifically mentioned. It is a noticeable feature of this Bill that the only time that a service is mentioned is when it is desired to exempt it.
It seems to me that the Government have completely misunderstood the proper nature of the Monopolies Commission by attempting to exclude the restrictive practices engaged in by trade unions. If the professions such as solicitors, barristers, accountants, stockbrokers and members of the discount market are to be liable to be brought up before the Monopolies Commission as carrying out some form of restrictive service, it is surely not conceivable that those professions will be indicted. At least, I would hope not. If they were to be so indicted, it would be impossible to undertake the management of their business. In addition, the very nature of their business is international in scope, and the fact that other countries which carry out the same business have precisely the same mechanism makes it impossible to change the structure of those professions. In that case, it would seem that the Government have nothing whatever to fear in applying the examination of the Monopolies Commission to what are called restrictive practices on the part of labour.
It is not our position on this side of the House that all restrictive practices indulged in by labour are necessarily harmful. No doubt, a very good case can be made out to support some of these practices. But I suggest that by taking out the study of restrictive practices from the purview of the Commission it will seem to the public at large, and particularly to those dissident elements of the trade unions, that restrictive practices on the part of labour are in quite a different category. It may be said that labour restrictive practices are exempt from the purview of the Monopolies Commission in other countries. But the Government must take into account, if one is to adduce that argument, that the state of the law concerning the conduct of labour in other countries is far in advance of our own.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) has voiced his opinion about the value of the Royal Commission. We all know what the Prime Minister has had to say about 112 Royal Commissions. I am not arguing about the effectiveness of the Royal Commission in studying the trade unions. I am not arguing about how effective its proposals would be. What I am saying is that to the general public and to some dissident parts of the trade unions it must appear that not only are some members of the T.U.C. represented on the Royal Commission but that the whole subject has been put away for another day.
The arguments in support of exempting labour restrictive practices are very old. In the debates in 1948 labour restrictive practices were referred to, although there was never at that time any suggestion of services being brought into the purview of the Monopolies Commission. Even so, they were definitely mentioned and there was a great deal of argument on both sides of the House as to whether restrictive practices engaged in by labour should be considered as suitable for reference to the Monopolies Commission.
I should like to mention the view of the then President of the Board of Trade, now the Prime Minister. His view was set out very clearly on 12th April, 1948, when he said:It is our view that the country cannot afford any restrictive practices on either side of industry. Whatever fears of unemployment"—and those fears were very strong indeed in 1948—might have led to practices restricting production or raising costs, there is no justification today for them, and just as in the Monopolies Bill we are seeking powers to deal with restrictive business practices, so the Government will do everything in their power to secure the dropping, removal and diminution of restrictive practices of every kind on either side of industry.—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 12th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 665–6.]That was in 1948 and in those days there was a good deal of unemployment, but many years have passed and at present the unemployment figure is about 275,000. We have the best record of employment of any industrialised country in the Western world, and therefore I do not feel that the argument of fear of unemployment can be adduced any longer.
The other argument in those days was that labour practices were not suitable to be brought before the Monopolies Commission because at that time the Commission was discussing goods, not services. 113 As a result of the present Bill that argument can no longer apply. We now have to engage in a study of the realities of the situation. I cannot help but feel that this is exemplified by the instructions sent out recently by the Secretary of the Draughts-men and Allied Technicians' Association which said:Industrial militancy is the only measure whereby our members can protect and improve our living standards in the society in which we live. A successful strike should be followed up by more demands. More money should be followed by a demand for yet more money.This is the reality of the situation and it must appear to outsiders and to the general public as a prescription for industrial anarchy.
What are the Government doing about it? What are the measures to be produced by the Prime Minister who in 1948 was President of the Board of Trade when we looked forward so much to what was promised? The whole of the Finance Bill has been based on the need to help the First Secretary to secure his incomes policy. The economy has been damaged to this effect quite deliberately, but what has been the result so far? Wage claims have been three times as large as the suggested norm. Whether it is intentional or not, the fact is that the exclusion of restrictive labour practices from the purview of the Commission will be interpreted by the trade unionists only as yet another concession, more danegeld to the privileged class, the new fourth estate of the Realm, the estate of the union ticket-holders. The Government will seem to these dissident people as operating a protection racket on a colossal scale only matched perhaps by that of the Mafia.
Mr. J. T. Price
Before the hon. Gentleman pursues that fascinating theme any further and waxes even more eloquent, may I suggest that to bring balance to his statement he should bear in mind that every employers' association is by definition a trade union. The Galvanised Tank Manufacturers' Association owes its legal existence to the trade union Act under which it is registered. If the hon. Member deplores restrictive practices and if he brings these services within the purview of the Commission he must bring in all the restrictive practices operated by trade associations.
I hope that all restrictive practices will be brought before the Commission. This has been my view all along. I am concerned with the effect which the Bill will have on the outlook of those who are unofficial leaders of strikes. They will feel that as a class they are being specifically exempted and those leaders of unofficial strikes who have no responsibility to their unions will only be heartened by this Measure. They are in every way the pimps of modern industrial society and they should be exposed as such. The Government should stand up for the Government's authority now.
It is no use Mr. Aubrey Jones saying on the National Board for Prices and Incomes that there will be methods of handling these matters, that we hope for voluntary restraint and that if we do not have voluntary restraint the Government will bring in some compulsory means. What is meant by "compulsory means"? He should not introduce those terms if he is to have any credence given to his beliefs. Either they are ineffective, in which case they are absolutely incredible, or else they will be completely intolerable as being against the liberty of the subject.
There will be those who will believe what their unofficial leaders tell them. These unofficial leaders will be strengthened by the Bill and in the long run the trade unionists will suffer because the only possible result and logical outcome of these activities will be serious unemployment. For that reason, if no other, I hope that the House will accept the Amendment.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I was not a member of the Standing Committee which spent considerable time on this complicated Measure. I have listened to my hon. Friends the Members for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) and for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) and I confess to some confusion about the exact effects of the Clause and of the Amendment. I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham to argue that organisations representing solicitors, stockbrokers and discount houses would come within the limits of the Clause but the activities of trade unions would not. As I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Reading speak, I realised how excellent was the Amendment.
115 My hon. Friend spoke, for example, about the comparatively small number of days lost in disputes in this country. This is perfectly true and is extremely welcome but would anyone deny that the reason why so few days have been lost is that on many occasions the trade unions have employed their monopoly powers to force a settlement? It may be a legitimate exercise of the rules by the trade unions to do this and hon. Members opposite would certainly claim that that was so. I go along with them to a certain extent and if the Amendment is accepted it will not be necessary presumably to refer every specific dispute to the Commission. That would be done only if it is considered important enough. That should be borne in mind.
Recently, and over past years, disputes of various kinds have arisen between employers and unions. If the disputes have not been settled round the table, on many occasions special courts of inquiry have been set up. One became rather cynical whenever this was done because, inevitably, some sort of settlement was arrived at which appeared to be not in the best interests of the nation. One reason for this is that the special committees or commissions of inquiry set up to investigate the situation were composed of people not particularly experienced in the matter in hand or, perhaps, in the sort of negotiations and investigations which were necessary, whereas on one side there were the trade unions led by capable and experienced negotiators who started off with a great advantage.
If the Amendment is accepted and matters of this kind can be referred to the Commission, which will have permanent members and co-opted members on it, there will be equal negotiating ability and experience on each side and, as a result, a much fairer answer will be arrived at.
§ Mr. Jay
First of all, I should explain to the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot), who seems to be in some doubt about the scope of this provision, that the Bill as drafted would exclude the rendering of services under a contract of service—these are the operative words which hon. Members opposite wish to remove—and, therefore, whether we are concerned with a trade union or a 116 trade association is strictly irrelevant. What would be excluded would be the rendering of services under a contract of service. If I may presume to translate that legal language into something nearer plain English, what is meant is that the self-employed person is included while the employed person, as normally understood, is excluded from the scope of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery), in moving the Amendment, said that the argument here was rather similar to the argument we have just had about the inclusion or exclusion of nationalised industries. I must tell him that the answer also is rather similar, whether he likes it or not. There is no dispute between us about the necessity of getting rid of at any rate a large number of restrictive practices on the labour side as well as in other sectors of industry. I fully agree that this is highly desirable, and it ought to be done by whatever method is most likely to achieve the result. The only difference between us is on whether we should be likely to achieve that result by bringing the ordinary labour restrictive practices within the authority of the Monopolies Commission.
We do not consider that we should be more likely to achieve it in that way, and here we are entirely in harmony with every Government since the war and every piece of legislation introduced into and passed by the House on monopolies or restrictive practices. We are also in harmony, I remind the hon. Gentleman, with the White Paper introduced by his Government only last year. I was a little surprised that he described this view as nonsense. If it is nonsense, it was also nonsense in the White Paper only a year ago.
The hon. Gentleman began by deploring the number of strikes which occur, while admitting that they are not, relative to other countries, perhaps, as numerous or excessive as some people may argue. I fully agree that if, by accepting the Amendment and bringing these practices within the scope of the Monopolies Commission, we could diminish the number of days lost in strikes this would be a very strong argument in favour of doing so; but I have the very greatest doubt that applying this sort of method to the labour restrictive practices which we 117 deplore we should in fact diminish the number of strikes which occur. I think it more likely that they would increase.
The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) virtually admitted this, a little illogically from his point of view, I thought, when he was arguing about the National Board for Incomes and Prices. He asked what was the good of the Board thinking that it would stop these practices by some form of compulsion. He said that that was incredible, unworkable, or something like that. If it is impossible to stop them by compulsion, it is no good bringing them under legislation of this kind and expecting a recommendation of the Monopolies Commission to be somehow enforced by the Board of Trade. Perhaps I did not understand the hon. Gentleman aright.
§ Mr. Hordern
The point I was making was that, if trade unionists were specifically exempted from the provisions of the Bill, they would gain the impression—this applies particularly to the most dissident of them—that they were in a class of their own. It is this that we should be most careful to avoid.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
That is a slightly different argument, but it is also an argument against the White Paper and the other legislation previously introduced.
If we are really seeking to remove these restrictive practices, it must be remembered that one of the reasons why such practices exist is that in many parts of the country there has been a history of acute outright unemployment or underemployment over a long period of years. The hon. Member for Horsham spoke of 1948 and said that all these fears should have long ago disappeared. It so happens that in the shipbuilding areas, for instance, there have been two acute outbreaks of unemployment since 1948, one in 1959–60 and one in 1962–63. It is not surprising, therefore, that these practices continue obstinately to prevail.
However, when one has said that and argued that we should not be likely to get rid of these restrictive practices in this, the question may then be asked, what else can be done and what is being done by the Government now? Here, an answer can be given. First, as I have said 118 on other occasions, one important contribution is to bring fuller employment to these areas and industries than has been known in the past. That is the first step which is being successfully taken.
Second, as hon. Members know, it was part of the Declaration of Intent signed last winter not only by the Government but by representatives of industrialists and trade unionists that all sides pledged themselves, among other things, to make an attack on these sort of practices. Third, a Royal Commission is now sitting to investigate the whole subject of trade union and other practices and what can best be done, if necessary, to bring them into accord with the public interest.
Nevertheless, hon. Members may again say, "That is all very fine. Lots of people are thinking about it and lots of people have made declarations of intent, but what is actually being done?" Here, too, it can be claimed that we are making progress in several directions. I will give one instance about which hon. Members probably know. Only last month, John Brown reached agreement with the local branch of the Shipwrights and the Boilermakers Society on a scheme for interchangeability between platers and shipwrights. Restrictive practices in that sphere of industry have been some of the most subject to criticism in the past. This scheme provides, for instance, for a total of 500 platers and shipwrights to be employed on assembly, erection and so on, on the basis that either will do the other's work in the event of shortage. It may be said that this is only one arrangement for one section of industry. It is, I am informed in the industry, regarded by John Brown as a major break-through, and it is satisfactory to learn that other ship-building firms in other centres are now engaged in discussions with the representatives of their employees in the hope of making similar arrangements.
I should have thought that this was a much more hopeful way of getting rid of these practices, by agreement step by step, than by bringing them under the scope of the Monopolies Commission, with presumably the intention in the end that some compulsory action should be taken by the Government. I think we are beginning to make progress now. I fully agree that the attempts to do so have to be pushed forward vigorously, but I am 119 convinced that we shall be much more likely to succeed in this manner, by agreement and by tried methods, than by adopting a policy which would be entirely contrary to that which has been accepted by this House and by every Government up to now since 1945.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I had not been intending to be tempted into this short debate if it had not been for the fact that the President of the Board of Trade specifically linked this Amendment with the new Clause which I moved earlier and gave us somewhat obliquely the news that we were to have, as we now know, the same response to the Amendment as to the Clause.
I want to take up one or two points that the right hon. Gentleman made in order to try to persuade him even at this late hour that he is not advising the House to take the right decision. I want to make quite plain that I have always understood the reason which leads men, and, particularly, led men in the past, to combine together and to secure the strength which comes from that combination. I myself am quite unashamedly a member of an extremely strong trade union which, without any apology whatever, acts—extremely effectively I think—in the interests of its members and of the general public.
However, the interesting thing about it is that in certain of its aspects it comes within the ambit of this Bill, not in regard to certain important aspects of its remuneration, because they arise under orders made by this House and so they are exempted from the Bill, but if, for example, one takes a widely criticised demarcation, that between solicitors on the one hand and barristers on the other, which is very much in point at the moment because it is very much discussed, that, as I understand it, comes within the terms of the Bill. When he shortly returns to private practice the Minister without Portfolio may well be feeling on the Opposition benches the lash of legislation which he has helped to guide in a distinguished way through the Standing Committee and the House.
Therefore, I find it extremely difficult to see why the discriminations made between one type of association of persons working together, just because they are 120 self-employed, and another type as honourable and as desirable as the first, which is exempted from the provisions of the Bill—
§ Captain W. Elliot
I understood the President of the Board of Trade to tell me specifically that the self-employed person, as I imagine a solicitor considers himself to be, is outside the ambit of the Bill. Is that so, or is it not?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I am relieved to discover that I am not, on this occasion at any rate, talking nonsense. In short, what we are talking about are what are known at any rate in our profession as tame solicitors. What other types there are I do not know. The Minister without Portfolio hardly comes into it, but whatever he and I are, this is it.
A useful intervention was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern)—this is no criticism of his intervention—who made the same intervention in the Standing Committee. It was that we on this side of the House must appreciate that in putting forward this Amendment we are seeking to bring in not only the recognised trade unions as the ordinary person understands that phrase but also employers' associations and so on. On the previous occasion it was I who answered my hon. Friend. Like my hon. Friend, I accepted without question that that must apply. It would be a wholly untenable argument put forward from these benches or any other benches that only one type of trade union should be within the ambit of the Bill. Therefore, I think that that is perfectly clearly understood. As I understand it, that is clearly within the ambit of the drafting.
The President of the Board of Trade returned again to the argument that this has never been done or proposed before. I wish we could shake the Treasury Bench off its conservatism. The fact that it has never been done before is advanced as one of the legs of the argument for not doing it now. But we live in an age of change. We need a radical approach to many of these matters. Frankly, it will not be well received by many of those 121 who support hon. Members opposite, and, for the reason advanced by my hon. Friend tae Member for Horsham, by a number of persons who support hon. Members on this side of the House. Almost everyone prefers an undisturbed, quiet life. Almost everyone is in favour of competition so long as it is competition for the other person. Almost everyone pays lip service to this matter until it is applied to him. It must be made very clear that hon. Members on both sides are in part taking their political lives in their hands in proposing and, as would hope even at this stage, in accepting the Amendment.
I am very disappointed indeed by the reply that we have so far received. I dismiss without any question the mere fact that it has not been done before. I would tell the President of the Board of Trade that if this had been a discussion with a Conservative President of the Board of Trade, there would have been a number of us sitting behind that Conservative President nipping sharply at him and making life difficult for him had this provision not been in the Bill, and we should have had a number of contributions from Government backbenchers, with which we have not yet been honoured—at least not so far on this Bill. In fact, the Chamber is being used more as a rest centre than as a place for debate at the present time.
Mr. J. T. Price
The hon. Member cannot get away with that. I have been trying to restrain myself, but I have made at least five contributions to the debate, and I hope they have all been at the point at issue. I am not proposing to make any more under this kind of provocation.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
The hon. Member is a very distinguished exception, but for evidence of what I am saying he should look behind him.
The second point is that there is a Commission on trade unions sitting at present. I believe that this will affect any Government, including the Conservative Government when we have one again in the near future. I believe that it will also be accepted increasingly by industry and the country that the results of the Royal Commission's inquiries must necessarily take far too long for what 122 the state of the nation demands. We really have not the time to wait and hear whether we do have a method of introducing the new powers proposed by the Amendment, which surely the Government might have found very effective.
I am encouraged in that by a chink in the armour displayed by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that if he believed that the Amendment would diminish unofficial strikes he would gladly be in favour of it. I hope that I am fairly representing what he said. I want to take an analogy, that of the Prices and Incomes Board which has been so much in our discussions today, and consider what it is we are doing in bringing before that Board a number of those who may, prima facie, have unreasonably raised their prices.
Let us take the bread industry and the bakers, who are among those before the Board at the moment and in respect of whom I have no personal knowledge of any kind, which is why I choose them as an example. What must be clear from that industry is that the conditions which led to the price increase are under very close scrutiny by the industry itself. The increase is being very carefully looked at to make sure that it can be justified to the hilt. Here there is a paradox which is relevant to the Bill. It is a curious side-effect that, with the direct approval of the Prices and Incomes Board, the whole industry is getting together to think about that price increase. Thus, it is perhaps a paradox, and an interesting one, that the operations of the Prices and Incomes Board are actually tending to lead to monopolistic conditions, with the direct encouragement of the Board, at a time when we in this House are working our way through the Bill.
I put that—and I speak with some little knowledge of one of the industries concerned—as an interesting by-product of the situation. I am drawing the analogy because the power vested in the Board is not actually that of a sanction—at least, not yet. It has the power of public opinion attracted to these price increases. It will be extremely interesting to see how powerful the impact of public opinion is upon these proposed price increases when they are reported on one after the other 123 by the Board. I cannot pursue that further because it would be out of order, but the analogy is fair.
As I sought to argue upstairs, I believe that the Government seriously under-estimate the sense of irritation that there is on so many shop floors at the restricted practices which the trade union structure forces them to carry out. Particularly is this so in the younger industries, from which my experience is mostly drawn, since my constituency is very typical of the centres of the younger industries.
The men on the shop floor today have had the enormous advantage under successive Governments of an infinitely better education than their fathers ever had. They have the advantage of an infinitely wider understanding and knowledge of the nation's economic problems than their fathers ever had the chance of having. The young men of today—and large numbers are doing a highly skilled job—are men to whom these restrictive practices are things which fill them with contempt.
Of course, I know the correct answer, what is called the "D.S." solution. The correct answer is that they should attend branch meetings of their unions, exercise their democratic rights and, in concert with management, get rid of these restrictive practices—and I know of no good employer who does not welcome good trade union organisation although I know of one or two thoroughly bad employers who attempt to suppress trade unions, to their great discredit. As I have said, that solution is the correct one according to the book but in practice it does not happen.
The men concerned want the strength behind them of public opinion as channelled by this House. That is what is necessary. On the shop floor of industry are men of the highest calibre and highest character, men who regard a wild-cat strike as utterly foreign to their outlook and sense of responsibility to the nation. Yet they find themselves enmeshed in this old-fashioned structure which so badly needs bringing up to date and they desperately need the strength of public opinion. That is the case. It is not an unreasoned case. It is not to be dismissed lightly by reference to what may have happened in the past or to what may 124 or may not have been done by previous Governments.
If it helps the right hon. Gentleman, I will say from these back benches, with no kind of responsibility—nor did I have in the past—that this was one of the omissions of the 13 years of Conservative administration. Since I am not such an avid party politician that I believe or proclaim to believe that every single thing the Conservative Government did was right or that they never left anything undone, I concede this point with frankness. That is why I am so anxious to play my part in order to make certain that, if not this Government, then at least some subsequent Government will put the matter right.
§ Mr. John Harvey
I pay my own tribute to the principles of trade unionism. I have been a member of two trade unions, both of which have always approached their tasks with responsibility and have furthered the interests of their membership in a right and proper manner. But when the President of the Board of Trade suggests that this was not a point ever taken before by this side of the House—that it had not appeared in the White Paper last year—I must re-echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said in suggesting that we must get away from thinking, that, because a thing has not been done in the past, that is a good reason for not doing it now.
One can obviously see that progress is being made in improving relationships as between unions and industries of different kinds. One can see this applying, for instance, in the shipbuilding industry. But while these improvements are being made, and while many of us say that this is something best left to the normal processes of negotiations, one hopes that such irresponsibility as exists here and there in the trade union movement will gradually give way to some sense of responsibility as some of the old fears are seen to have gone.
Nevertheless, the fact is that it is not agreement between trade unions and industry that makes the headlines. It is irresponsibility of the sort that we saw again at London Airport at Whitsun. I say "again" because this is what tends so often to happen at Bank Holidays. 125 This is the sort of thing that makes the headlines. This makes the public ask what the Government are doing about the constant inconvenience to which the travelling public are put and the way in which the travelling public or the consuming public are so often held to ransom.
For us to be debating a Bill which, quite rightly, will make it possible for the affairs of far more people than ever before to be scrutinised with a view to seeing whether they are serving the public interest, while at the same time saying that trade unions must be exempt and still must be dealt with in some other way, will not strike many people outside the House as being fair. It is tremendously in the interests of the trade unions themselves that the Government should take this point and reconsider the validity of our arguments.
§ Mr. Dan Jones
I invite the hon. Gentleman to agree that a distinction should be made between trade unions and trade unionists. He is confusing the two and I invite him to make the distinction clear.
§ Mr. Harvey
One of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends pointed out that trade associations were trade unions and that in asking for an investigation to be made into these matters, we must widen the issue. We have said that we would welcome that and we would. I do not see how one can differentiate as the hon. Gentleman is suggesting.
§ Mr. John Hall
One interesting thing about the debate has been that the majority of speakers from this side of the House have themselves been or still are trade unionists. Everyone who has heard it will agree that it has been a most important debate distinguished by some extraordinarily thoughtful, measured and reasoned speeches. I am only sorry—and I say this quite genuinely—that there are not more people in the Chamber to take part and that we have not had a contribution from the other side of the House. I appreciate the difficulties in which the Government find themselves when they have a very long night's work before them. They are reluctant to encourage their own Members to contribute to a debate and this may be one of the occasions when the Whips are on and are telling Government 126 Members to keep out of the Chamber and not to come in and keep the debate going, because the Government want to bring it to an end. I understand how these things work, but it is nevertheless a pity that we should have such a situation with this debate.
§ Mr. John Harvey
Will my hon. Friend agree that even if the Whips are on hon. Members opposite in this sense, there is nothing to stop the Liberal Party, which always says that it attaches a great deal of importance to this matter, from being present in force and that its members have been absent for a very long time?
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hall
That is perfectly true, but I must confess that I had hardly noticed their absence.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) was understandably puzzled that, although a great variety of services, including the professions, should be subject to the Clause, employees with contracts of service were not. I understand his bewilderment, because it is rather odd that those people should be excluded from the Clause.
In a fairly brief reply to the Amendment, ably and cogently moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery), the President of the Board of Trade repeated the arguments which we heard in Standing Committee and which, briefly, were that what the Government were now doing or not doing was in harmony with what other Governments had done in the past and on the lines followed in the past. We also had what is now becoming the chestnut—the reference to last year's White Paper and the fact that it did not mention any intention to introduce in a Bill of this kind measures which would bring trade unions within the purview of such legislation.
I thought that it was one of the main arguments of right hon. and hon. Gentlement opposite that they had come to power because of the sins of omission as well as the sins of commission by the Government which held office for the previous 13 years. It was said that they were to do things which had not been done in the past. Apparently, they are now saying that because they were not done by us they will not do anything 127 either. If they are not to do any of the things which we did not do, why have they come to power? Let us sit over there to do something effective. This argument of hon. Members opposite is extraordinary.
The second argument is that there is a Royal Commission. We know that a Royal Commission has been appointed, but we also know—and this is no disrespect to any Royal Commission—that Royal Commissions take a certain time to examine and report and there is a great tendency to bury the reports of Royal Commissions in the archives of Whitehall. Eventually, years and years later, someone takes one out and dusts it down and decides that perhaps something might be done about it.
All parties and all Governmens suffer from this defect. Royal Commissions are one of the most famous ways of burying a subject which is embarrassing and with which it is difficult to deal. I hope that this Royal Commission will be an exception, but the Royal Commission argument is not an argument against including powers in a Bill so that the Government can use them if they desire. They do not have to use the powers, but the powers would be there if the Government wanted to use them.
The right hon. Gentleman sought to show what magnificent progress was being made in industrial relations by using other methods of free negotiation between employer and employee, and he quoted the example of John Brown's, saying that an agreement had been reached between the platers and the shipwrights. He said that this was only one agreement in one industry. But it is only one of many in that industry and there is a long way to go before there is a solution of the demarcation problems and the restrictive practices which have grown up in the shipbuilding industry over many years, for reasons which we quite understand, but which will have to be eradicated if the industry is to be as efficient as some of its competitors. It is a little too hopeful to believe that the normal processes of negotiation over a long time will have the effect which is wanted as quickly as possible.
In a debate on this subject in Committee, the Minister of State said: 128In saying that, I must again express the view we hold on this side of the Committee, that the modernisation of industry is now such an urgent necessity in this country that restrictive practices, either by employers or trade unionists and workers generally, can no longer be tolerated".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 29th April, 1965; c. 179.]In saying that, he was echoing words of the Prime Minister in another guise, words quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) in a very thoughtful speech.
They are strong words; they are good words; why cannot we have them translated into some sort of action? We have made it clear that we believe that restrictive practices, wherever they are, whether on the part of employer or employee, are bad for the country and should be brought under scrutiny. If they can be shown to be against the public interest, and here I direct my remarks for one moment in the direction of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), if it can be shown that trade associations are guilty of restrictive practices contrary to the public interest, then they should be forced to give them up. We are quite willing to accept this.
The other argument used by the Government in Committee was that it was said that even if reference was made to the Monopolies Commission and certain practices were found to be contrary to the public interest, the President of the Board of Trade could do nothing about it. I am paraphrasing the words of the Minister without Portfolio in Committee as reported in column 199 on 29th April. Is the House seriously to understand that if some trade union was referred to the Monopolies Commission under Clause 2 and was found to be guilty of practices which were against the public interest those concerned could defy not only the Board of Trade but the court which could be asked to give an order requiring the trade union to carry out the directions of the Board of Trade? Have we reached a situation in this country where—despite the law of the land and an order of the court—trade unions can now defy the law? Is that why it was said that even if trade unions were referred to the Monopolies Commission it would not be effective because the President of the Board of Trade could do nothing about it? I do not believe this.
129 If this Amendment was accepted, and it was possible to bring all services within the purview of the Monopolies Commission, as they should be, and if it was found on examination that some practices were against the public interest, I doubt very much whether those concerned would be prepared to defy not only Parliament but the courts. I cannot therefore understand the reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman and the arguments he has put forward against this Amendment.
To sum up again, those arguments are merely that it has not been done before and now that a Royal Commission is examining the whole trade union movement it is not necessary, according to the Minister to write powers into a Bill now before the House to enable him if he wished to, to deal with practices which
§ are particularly undesirable in our industrial history. If the Government mean what they say and really want to remove restrictive practices wherevver they are and make industry really competitive, if restrictive practices wherever they are constantly saying they want to do, to make it possible for us to increase our exports by being more competitive overseas, and if they want to get our industrial practices modernised and in line with our major industrial competitors, then they will accept this Amendment. If they are not prepared to do that, I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 167.131
|Division No. 211.]||AYES||[8.23 p.m.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Eyre, Reginald||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Fisher, Nigel||Mitchell, David|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||More, Jasper|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gardner, Edward||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard|
|Batsford, Brian||Glover, Sir Douglas||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Grant, Anthony||page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Biffen, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Peel, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gurden, Harold||Pounder, Rafton|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Hamilton, M. (Salisbury)||Pym, Francis|
|Box, Donald||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Braine, Bernard||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hawkins, Paul||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Higgins, Terence L.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Burden, F. A.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Sharples, Richard|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hopkins, Alan||Shepherd, William|
|Buxton, Ronald||Hordern, Peter||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Iremonger, T. L.||Stainton, Keith|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cole, Norman||Kilfedder, James A.||Thomas, sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kirk, Peter||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Costain, A. P.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Litchfield, Capt. John||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Curran, Charles||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Walters, Dennis|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Longden, Gilbert||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Loveys, Walter H.||Webster, David|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Dean, Paul||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Whitelaw, William|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McMaster, Stanley||Wise, A. R.|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Maitland, Sir John||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Eden, Sir John||Maude, Angus||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mawby, Ray|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Emery, Peter||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Mr. Ian MacArthur and|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Mr. Dudley Smith.|
|Albu, Austen||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Orbach, Maurice|
|Alldritt, Walter||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Orme, Stanley|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Owen, Will|
|Barnett, Joel||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Beaney, Alan||Holman, Percy||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hooson, H. E.||Parker, John|
|Boston, T. G.||Horner, John||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Pentland, Norman|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton E.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Boyden, James||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hoy, James||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bradley, Tom||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Redhead, Edward|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Jackson, Colin||Rose, Paul B.|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Janner, Sir Barnett||Rowland, Christopher|
|Chapman, Donald||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Sheldon, Robert|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jeger, George (Goole)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Darling, George||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kenyon, Clifford||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lawson, George||Snow, Julian|
|Dodds, Norman||Leadbitter, Ted||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Stones, William|
|Dunn, James A.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Swain, Thomas|
|English, Michael||Lomas, Kenneth||Swingler, Stephen|
|Ensor, David||Loughlin, Charles||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Lubbock, Eric||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McBride, Neil||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McCann, J.||Tomney, Frank|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||MacColl, James||Tuck, Raphael|
|Foley, Maurice||MacDermot, Niall||Urwin, T. W.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McGuire, Michael||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Ginsburg, David||McLeavy, Frank||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Manuel, Archie||Wallace, George|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mapp, Charles||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Grey, Charles||Marsh, Richard||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mason, Roy||Whitlock, William|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Molloy, William||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Murray, Albert||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Newens, Stan||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Hannan, William||Norwood, Christopher||Zilliacus, K.|
|Harper, Joseph||Oakes, Gordon|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Ogden, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hazell, Bert||O'Malley, Brian||Mr. Ifor Davies and|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Mr. William Howie.|