HC Deb 09 August 1966 vol 733 cc1445-52

Nothing in this Act shall prejudice the operation of any scheme of co-partnership or profit-sharing, which has been created for the benefit of the employees in a particular industry, company or firm: Provided that such a co-partnership or profit-sharing scheme shall have been in operation at least six months before the passing of this Act; and all provisions in this Act relating to terms and conditions of employment, incomes and earnings shall be deemed to disregard payments to be made to employees in accordance with the terms of such copartnership and profit-sharing schemes as aforesaid.—[Mr. Gower.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Gower

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

Do I understand that we can discuss with it Amendment No. 38, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Amendment No. 38 would be more conveniently discussed in conjunction with new Clause No. 3.

Mr. Gower

For the purpose of this new Clause I want to use the definition of profit sharing formulated by the International Congress on Profit-Sharing in Paris in 1889, endorsed by a similar Congress in 1900 and by the International Co-operative Congresses in 1896 and 1897. The definition is: Definite arrangements under which employees receive, in addition to their wages or salaries, a share, on some pre-determined basis, in the profits of the undertaking, the sum allocated to employees varying with the level of the profits. There is no similar definition in the case of co-partnership but I agree with the broad definition contained in the Ministry of Labour Gazette of May, 1956, on page 166: By implication, the term covers any arrangement in which a business is so organised and conducted that the employees feel that, by virtue of their services, they are genuinely partners with the employers in a joint undertaking … In passing, I suggest that never has British industry appeared more likely to benefit from this spirit of co-partnership in its wider sense. Nationalised as well as private industry could benefit from an infusion of this ideal. For the purpose of the new Clause, however, I adopt the narrower definition of co-partnership which was also contained in the Ministry of Labour Gazette for May, 1956. By this, co-partnership is described as: A system which ensures that there shall be a sharing of profits with employees, supplemented by arrangements for the employees to acquire some share in the control of the undertaking by owning share capital and in other ways. I had the honour to initiate a debate as long ago as 28th January, 1955, when I submitted a Motion to the House which was eventually passed, dealing with profit sharing and co-partnership. As may be seen from the OFFICIAL REPORT for that day, at col. 563–576, I did not claim that co-partnership and profit sharing offered a magic sesame to a new industrial era, nor do I today suggest that a firm is a good firm merely because it has one or another of these schemes in operation. I submitted then, and I submit today, that the fact that a company or firm has instituted a co-partnership or profit-sharing scheme often reflects an achievement of general efficiency and the maintenance of good industrial relations in the firm.

In a mixed economy like ours we have perhaps looked too often at the comparative merits of free enterprise and nationalisation. In such a mixed economy it seems certain that we shall long retain a number of nationalised industries and a very large number of industries in the private sector. Should we not look for an increased and useful contribution from companies which practise profit sharing and co-partnership?

These have a unique quality of producing a sense of partnership among employees in an industry. They also tend to lessen the harshness of those frontiers which often divide nations into employees and employers. In debate on 28th January, 1955, the Government spokesman, now Lord Watkinson, undertook to see what the Ministry of Labour could do by way of a regular publication of statistical information. I must confess that up to date the result has been somewhat disappointing.

The last comprehensive data published by the Ministry of Labour Gazette was as long ago as May, 1956, in the article I have already mentioned. The information then published was for 1954. According to the article there were then 421 undertakings operating profit-sharing schemes at the end of 1954. The firms in question then employed 611,713 persons of whom 389,433 were entitled to participate in the schemes.

Unfortunately, similar figures for copartnership were not then available. I wonder whether the Government spokesman can give us the latest comparable figures about these schemes. It must be obvious that profit sharing and co-partnership still affect only a relatively minor segment of our industry. This is a very tender plant which all too easily could be destroyed. I hope that the Government do not intend to destroy it and I would remind some hon. Members opposite that the Cooperative Movement has a long and honourable connection with copartnership and profit sharing.

I had to draft the Clause rather hastily and I realise that its wording is certainly not perfect, but the Government should at least state that they accept the principle that it contains. It is a valid criticism of recent economic policy, including the Bill before us, that it is mostly restricting. The acceptance of the principle contained in this Clause, without hampering seriously or significantly the general prices and incomes policy, would offer something creative and dynamic.

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

The House proceeded to a Division.

Sir K. Joseph (seated and covered)

On a point of order. My hon. Friend seriously and briefly moved a new Clause and there has been no Government reply. No Government spokesman has answered and we are now to take a Division without hearing any answer. Is this in order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is not a matter for me. No one on either side of the House rose, and it was therefore my duty to put the question.

The Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. William Rodgers) (seated and covered)

On a point of order. It was not the wish of this side of the House to show any discourtesy to the House. We had anticipated that there would be a short pause, in which we would be enabled to see whether other right hon. or hon. Members rose and in the event of their not doing so, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary intended to reply. There was no discourtesy involved and we would have wished to reply had the opportunity occurred.

The House divided: Ayes 146, Noes, 202.

Division No. 161.] AYES [5.55 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gresham Cooke, R. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Pardoe, John
Batsford, Brian Gurden, Harold Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hall, John (Wycombe) Peel, John
Biffen, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Percival, Ian
Blaker, Peter Hastings, Stephen Pike, Miss Mervyn
Body, Richard Hawkins, Paul Pink, R. Bonner
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Price, David (Eastleigh)
Braine, Bernard Higgins, Terence L. Prior, J. M. L.
Brewis, John Hill, J. E. B. Pym, Francis
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Quennell, Miss J. M.
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Ramsden, Rt. Hn, James
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hordern, Peter Rawlinson, Rt. Hon, Sir Peter
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Howell, David (Guildford) Ridsdale, Julian
Bullus, Sir Eric Hunt, John Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Carlisle, Mark Hutchison, Michael Clark Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clegg, Walter Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Royle, Anthony
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Russell, Sir Ronald
Costain, A. P. Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Scott, Nicholas
Craddock, Sir Berestord (Spelthorne) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Sharples, Richard
Crouch, David Jopling, Michael Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Crowder, F. P. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Sinclair, Sir George
Cunningham, Sir Knox Kaberry, Sir Donald Smith, John
Currie, G. B. H. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Stodart, Anthony
Dance, dames Kirk, Peter Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Kitson, Timothy Summers, Sir Spencer
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Talbot, John E.
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Tapsell, Peter
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Teeling, Sir William
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Loveys, W. H. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Doughty, Charles Lubbock, Eric Tilney, John
Eden, Sir John McAdden, Sir Stephen Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Eyre, Reginald Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Vickers, Dame Joan
Farr, John Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fisher, Higel Maddan, Martin Wall, Patrick
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maginnis, John E. Weatherill, Bernard
Fortescue, Tim Mathew, Robert Webster, David
Foster, Sir John Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Whitelaw, William
Gibson-Watt, David Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Miscampbell, Norman Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Glover, Sir Douglas Murton, Oscar Worsley, Marcus
Glyn, Sir Richard Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Goodhew, Victor Neave, Airey TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gower, Raymond Nott, John Mr. Younger and
Grant, Anthony Onslow, Cranley Mr. David Mitchell.
Albu, Austen Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Edelman, Maurice
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Alldritt, Walter Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Ellis, John
Allen, Scholefield Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James English, Michael
Armstrong, Ernest Cant, R. B. Ensor, David
Ashley, Jack Coleman, Donald Faulds, Andrew
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Concannon, J. D. Finch, Harold
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Conlan, Bernard Floud, Bernard
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Corbet, Mrs. Freda Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Barnes, Michael Crawshaw, Richard Forrester, John
Baxter, William Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Galpern, Sir Myer
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Darling, Rt. Hn. George Gardner, A. J.
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Garrow, Alex
Bidwell, Sydney Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Bishop, E, S. Davies, Harold (Leek) Gourlay, Harry
Blackburn, F. Davies, Ifor (Gower) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Blenkinsop, Arthur Delargy, Hugh Gregory, Arnold
Booth, Albert Dell, Edmund Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Boston, Terence Dewar, Donald Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert Dickens, James Hannan, William
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Dobson, Ray Harper, Joseph
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Donnelly, Desmond Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brooks, Edwin Dunnett, Jack Hart, Mrs. Judith
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Haseldine, Norman
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W) Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Hazell, Bert
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Mayhew, Christopher Sheldon, Robert
Horner, John Mellish, Robert Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mendelson, J. J. Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Mikardo, Ian Silkin, John (Deptford)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Millan, Bruce Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Hunter, Adam Molloy, William Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Skeffington, Arthur
Janner, Sir Barnett Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Slater, Joseph
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Moyle, Roland Small, William
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Snow, Julian
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Newens, Stan Spriggs, Leslie
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Norwood, Christopher Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oakes, Gordon Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Ogden, Eric Storehouse, John
Jones, Rt. Hn. SirElwyn (W. Ham, S.) O'Malley, Brian Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Oram, Albert E. Symonds, J. B.
Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Orbach, Maurice Taverne, Dick
Lawson, George Orme, Stanley Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Leadbitter, Ted Oswald, Thomas Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Ledger, Ron Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Thornton, Ernest
Lestor, Miss Joan Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Tinn, James
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Tomney, Frank
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Park, Trevor Varley, Eric G.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Pavitt, Laurence Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Lomas, Kenneth Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Loughlin, Charles Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Watkins, David (Consett)
Luard, Evan Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E. Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Weitzman, David
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Wellbeloved, James
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Probert, Arthur Whitaker, Ben
McBride, Neil Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Whitlock, William
McCann, John Randall, Harry Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
MacColl, James Redhead, Edward Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Macdonald, A. H. Rees, Merlyn Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Rhodes, Geoffrey Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mackie, John Richard, Ivor Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
McNamara, J. Kevin Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.) Rodgers, William (Stockton) Wyatt, Woodrow
Mapp, Charles Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Marquand, David Rowland, Christopher (Meriden) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Ioan L. Evans and Mr. Grey.
Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

On a point of order. Before we discuss the next new Clause, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to avoid a repetition of the problem which we have just experienced, may I suggest that it would be helpful to the House, so that the debate does not come to an untimely end, that, if the Government benches decide not to respond to the debate they should hoist a flag of some kind, perhaps the flag which a ship displays when it wants a pilot?

Mr. George Brown

I was not present, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I gather that everybody realises that there was a misunderstanding. Of course, it will be the intention of the Government to reply to every debate and we will ensure that from now on the appropriate signal will be given which is normally given when one goes into action and is about to shoot the enemy straight out of the water.

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

On a point of order. Arising out of what has been said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are you aware that it was announced that the Division was off, that there was no second bell and that a number of hon. Members who were in the Library and other places were not acquainted of the fact that something had apparently been done to remedy that state of affairs?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I was not aware of that, but I will have inquiries made about it.