§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
I beg to move Amendment No. 28, in page 5, line 8, at the end to insert:(5) Subsection (4) of section 16 of the Prices and Incomes Act 1966 shall cease to have effect.Section 16 of the 1966 Act contains punitive provisions and states, among other things:If any trade union or other person takes, or threatens to take, any action, and in particular any action by way of taking part, or persuading others to take part, in a strike…he shall be liable—The Amendment, if accepted, would remove those punitive provisions from the parent Act.
- (a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, and
- (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine which, if the offender is not a body corporate, shall not exceed five hundred pounds."
My hon. Friends and I propose this course because we were led to believe that this process of dismantling the compulsory powers applying to wages—the dismantling process announced by the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government—would take place. We were promised that, in Committee, the 1966 Act —and particularly Section 16—would be amended. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take part in the discussions in Committee. Nor have we seen any proposed change in the Measure to suggest that the promises made to the T.U.C. and other trade unionists—who had asked for these punitive provisions to be amended—are being kept. This is the first opportunity we have had to state our case and to explain why Section 16(4) should be removed.
These provisions are not only bad economics but are morally wrong and politically disastrous; and tonight I shall demonstrate why they should be removed. They have lost support for th.3 Labour movement—more so than any other part of the Measure—and while 622 the Government have said time and again that they will not use these powers, we want them removed once and for all.
These measures have been included for two reasons. The first, a simple one, has often been discussed here—that it used to be erroneously believed that clouting the trade unions was a vote winner. Five or six Members of the Cabinet, I understand, thought this, but it has been disproved, particularly by the local election results, and my party no longer believes that it has anything to commend it electorally. The party opposite have long advocated being tough with the unions, but I hope that they will do so no longer, and that the Leader of the Opposition, after his speech last week, will reflect that it is not an electoral winner; although, if they did continue in this vein, it would ensure our success.
There are other political lessons to be learned. One must be critical of the Government's case for these measures. The Cabinet do not have the "feel" of the grass roots of industry and opinion in the unions. Hon. Members opposite lack this totally and are largely irrelevant: I am speaking to my own comrades and my friends in the Government. They do not understand that the one issue which the lads in industry constantly fight for and discuss is the wages question. The wages of sin may be death, but the wages of the British worker are a very near second. These are the kind of jokes which dominate life in industry.
The Government's cold-handedness has got them into trouble with the unions, who find the situation produced by this legislation difficult to comprehend, because of the way the unions were born and injected into industry. People in industry try to measure the qualities of our mixed economy and recognise that people are honoured because they are successful profit-makers. The people in another place, the people with knighthoods and the people in the Birthday Honours List, are those who have been successful in making tremendous profits.
§ 1.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
I must remind the hon. Member that we are not on Second Reading but Report stage and he should confine his remarks to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Thank you for that observation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to set the scene and point out why these measures are included in the Bill and to show why there is misunderstanding throughout the country. It is the basis of our case that workers in industry see success measured in terms of profitability. On the other hand, with great sadness in their hearts, the leaders of the working-class movement have supported policies which restrain wages. The one thing they see which is valued is profit and they compare this with the restraint on wages. That is why the bitterness exists, particularly when there is a Clause of this kind directed against trade unions. The Clause spells out in detail that this part of the legislation is concerned with trade unions and no other section of the community.
Experience over the past few months has proved that this is anti-trade union legislation, not because the Government are anti-trade union, but because wage negotiations are carried on collectively and organised by the trade unions. Of necessity this part of the Bill must be anti-trade union. My comrades in industry recognise this. Whatever methods are used to maintain the economy, they see the difference between stimulants given to industry and deterrents on wages. They see this written into the legislation. They know that to achieve economic success there must be stimulants given to the profit motive which is the motive force in industry, and they see deterrents to deter people from having much more than the Government believe to be the workers' share.
These are the values which exist in industry today and the reasons for the bitterness which is brought about when legislation of this kind is passed, particularly by a Labour Government. That is why we are concerned in the wage struggle to understand the grass-roots and the thinking in industry. It is noticeable that there is only one member of the Cabinet with any background in industry. That is the Minister of Labour. There is no one else, so far as I know, who 624 has a background of this sort and a feel of industry. I know that there is the Minister of Power, but he was a professional trade unionist and did not work with the tools. Something is missing and there is a failure to understand our case. That is why we attach such importance to our case.
There is a second and probably more complex reason why the Clause was included. Since 1964 the Government have established as a first priority the maintenance of the £. Having said that all these actions were related to maintaining the value of the £, we can see a little more clearly why we have these punitive measures. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) were invited to join the Cabinet, there would be an immediate run on the £. If they were pursuing the kind of policy which we have heard from them, there would be an immediate run on the £. It is fair to say that.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It may be an interesting speculation, but it is hardly relevant to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Atkinson
I use that as an illustration. The purpose of the inclusion of this Clause was to satisfy financial interests which had a great interest in maintaining the value of the £.
Much has been written about what happened from the summer of 1965, when the present Foreign Secretary, then First Secretary of State, was negotiating with the T.U.C. and when the Government were also negotiating for additional support from American and European sources. Various members of the Government and one or two senior civil servants were commuting to the United States in an attempt to get some extra support for the £. The major discussion taking place was whether we should have an incomes policy with teeth in it. The Americans were then demanding that there must be teeth in the incomes policy. All this is common knowledge.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) was then telling the trade union leaders that he must have their agreement to the kind of incomes policy which we now have in order to get support from the Americans. Sufficient time has elapsed for these facts to be put on 625 record. We saw the birth of this policy, which every member of the Government was reluctant to accept. I am convinced that both the Prime Minister and the present Foreign Secretary fought tenaciously against the inclusion of measure5 of this kind in the Bill but their view was outweighed by the necessity to maintain the value of the £.
People in industry recognise this and understand why the Government decided to take the measures which they announced. Hon. Members who have signed the Amendment do not believe that we should ever have been in the position of having to bargain with the Americans in that way and of having to include such punitive measures. People in the factories understand the problems of imports and the balance of payments and the necessity for the Government to have a broadly based policy. They understand the meaning of deflation and of price regulation. They can see that a deflationary policy and the cutting back of imports mean a reduction of imports.
But in all this they resent the fact that a Labour Government have been forced to underwrite their policy by using measures of this kind, by threatening our people with tremendous fines and prosecutions. The resentment is there and that is why this policy will be defeated at the T.U.C. and at the annual conference of the Labour Party. People began to lose faith with the Government because the Government started to lose faith with our workers. One certainty is that one cannot seek voluntary co-operation with the Government by our people in terms of economic growth by threatening them with massive prosecutions. The Government say, of course, that they will never use this power, and we accept that. But the threat is always there, and we want it out of the Bill.
The way ahead is clear. It is the responsibility of the Government to announce to the country that they have confidence in the workers and the T.U.C. and its voluntary policy, believing that it will have some effect in bringing about economic recovery. This is an emotive subject but, in view of the time, I now ask the support of the House for this Amendment, which would take from the prices and incomes policy these terrible 626 punitive measures against our trade unions.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) wishes to remove from the 1966 Act the infringement on the right to strike —that is to say, the gross, punitive measures, as he calls them, imposed on trade unionists and others who strike in contravention of the Government's policy. He wishes to remove those measures, and so I do and all my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The interesting thing about this debate is that if he is really serious in his intention he could achieve his objective, for it is clear from the figures in the last Division that if he and his hon. Friends —ten or a dozen of them—are serious about this matter, they can achieve their objective. I hope that before we hear any more heart-throb speeches from that group on this matter, they will realise that it is deeds and not words which count in this. Perhaps they will take courage from what Mr. Frank Cousins did last year when the Prices and Incomes Act was going through. He sought to remove these powers from it and he had the courage of his convictions, for he voted. He did not merely abstain. That is a good tradition and one they might observe.
The First Secretary of State has suggested throughout these debates that he is moving from a period of terror, of iron grip, into a wider, ampler and better ether. This has been the burden of his speeches, the theme-song throughout, that we are gradually moving, perhaps rapidly moving, from the prison to the full flight of freedom, that we are in a transitional stage. One would have thought that the removal of the vitally important provision was a symbol of that progression. If the right hon. Gentleman believes in that progression, why does he not remove that symbol as an earnest of his intentions? It does not do him much good and we know from experience that he does not intend to use it.
We have the example of the Long-bridge car delivery men who had an Order made against them. The car delivery men 627 came to an agreement with their employer a long time ago and the Government made an Order forbidding the implementation of that agreement to increase their wages. Presumably, the Government examined that agreement and decided that it did not come within the exceptions to the freeze or the period of severe restraint and was not a productivity agreement which could be allowed—or, otherwise, they would not have made an Order.
The Government having made an Order and the employers having observed it, the trade unions or other persons concerned clearly took action in the hope of persuading others—with a view to compel, induce or influencetheir employers to implement the award. Nobody disputes that. What did the Government do? Nothing. All they did was to say that they wanted evidence about the original agreement, and they have been asking for that evidence for weeks and months.
They must have known the facts of that agreement before they made the Order. Otherwise, it was a very tyrannical thing to do. They must have known months ago whether the agreement was a genuine productivity agreement, but they have delayed on the excuse that a genuine productivity agreement, but they wanted more evidence about whether it was, and these sanctions, these punitive measures which the hon. Member for Tottenham so rightly dislikes are a paper tiger, and if there is one thing worse than a proper tiger it is a paper tiger.
Great damage has been done to the law merely for the purposes of propaganda. This provision is mere propaganda. It is a sort of proclamation, an in terrorem, a façade with nothing behind it, because it is clear from their actions that the Government do not intend to use it. Why, then, do they leave it in the Bill? Why do they soil their immortal souls for a paper tiger? Why for such a tiny mess of potage do they go on putting in this retrospective provision, this punitive provision, bringing the law into great disrepute for very little advantage?
One could understand it if they were villians on a great scale, disfiguring the Statute Book with this sort of provision 628 for an object worth having, but in fact these objectives are tiny, they are phantoms and one cannot understand why the Government persist in this line of argument. It disfigures our Statute Book. It is a gross breach of a basic human right, the right to strike, and it is for very little purpose.
I hope that, since it is such a tremendous breach of this basic human right, which is protected by various conventions, international and otherwise, and enshrined in our law since the days of Disraeli, who introduced it in the great Administration of 1870, that it will not now be disfigured in this way. [Interruption.] I hope that those who seek to interrupt me will at least have the courage of their convictions and join us in the Lobby.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) began and ended his speech by saying that if those of us on this side of the House who had backed this Amendment were seriously sincere in our intentions we could prove it by voting for the Amendment at the end of the proceedings. That was a perfectly proper point and I will try to answer it at the end of my remarks.
As a first comment upon his speech, I was deeply touched by his suggestion that the Tory Party had always fought in the cause of trade unionism. I almost expected him to say at any moment that the original martyrs in the cause were all members of the Todpuddle Conservative and Unionism Association. He did not go as far as that, but he did suggest that he was deeply moved, on trade union grounds, and that he shared our views in that respect.
I agree with him in his appeal to the Minister and the Government. In his earlier replies to some of the Amendments the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that each of the Amendments would be considered by the Government on their merits, that they were eager to accommodate the proposals if they could. I would suggest that this is the Amendment which they could select for acceptance. If they do so it would be a graceful act, and one for which they would get quite considerable credit.
In views of the events of the last few days, it would be a great asset for 629 the Government if they were to accept the Amendment, because the suggestion has been made that there could possibly be permanent legislation along the lines of this Bill and that next August there might be another similar Bill introduced. The Government are eager to disabuse us of that impression, and nothing could prove it better than for them to make a concession of this character. They would show the country that, so far from wishing to continue and strengthen such legislation, they were proving by deeds their eagerness to remove the most offensive parts of this Bill from the Statute Book.
I hope that they will seriously answer our proposal and consider acceptance of the Amendment, both in our interest, in the country's interest, and in their own interest. It has been part of the Government's claim, and they have a case for it, that this Measure is weaker in many respects than last year's Bill. It represents a modification, or a retreat, from the previous Measure they say. No one could deny that. As the hon. and learned Gentleman put it, why not confirm the retreat by removing the punitive Clauses? It would be a very sensible course for the Government to take on every ground.
The Government may argue that in the debate of a year ago it was claimed that it was possible, under that Act, for trade unionists to be sent to prison. This has net happened, they will say, and will ask why should we be so afraid of the continuance of this Clause? They might say that the fears expressed by some of us in that debate have not been proved correct, and should not lead to a revival of fears on this occasion. But because the Act has not been operated or been invoked, or this part has not been resorted to against trade unionists in the last 12 months, does not mean that it might not be in future.
I remember discussions we had a year ago when Part IV was recommended partly on the ground that it was never likely to be introduced. That was the major argument presented to us; that was the long-stop. The whole suggestion in July last year was that Part IV was extremely unlikely ever to be operated. Precisely because it was not going to be operated, the Government thought the House should vote for it. Yet, against 630 all their prophecies and all the likelihood they seemed to suggest, Part IV was brought into operation. It is therefore not beyond the bounds of possibility that even these long-stop powers of penal action against trade unionists could be invoked.
I shall describe one of the reasons why that is conceivable. I do not wish to create scares. Many of us want to see this legislation removed from the Statute Book. We think it offensive that such Measures should be on the Statute Book and we would like them removed in any case. There are possibilities in which this power could be used. One of the most powerful arguments which the Government employ whenever we have a major debate on prices and incomes which I heard the Minister in charge of the Bill using in the debate yesterday, is that if we do not have this Bill with all its sanctions and paraphernalia we are in danger of a free-for-all which would involve injustice and a situation in which some selfish trade unions might be able to grab advantages over the others.
This is the primary case on which the Government present their plea for the Bill and command their major support. This case was put powerfully a year ago by the present Foreign Secretary and it is put equally powerfully by the Minister in charge of the Bill at present. But the Government never seem to understand that one of the implications of that case is that trade union officers and leaders who might be expected to put in claims for higher paid workers are required not to do so for a considerable time during the operation of the Bill, and maybe for a considerable time ahead. The whole case is that the minority who could get the advantage in this free-for-all must not do so.
If that is applied in practice to trade union officers and leaders in some areas where they could command higher wages they are required to do the exact opposite of what a trade union leader does. He has to spend his time telling his members the reasons why he should not put in wage claims. That is bound to happen and that is what has happened to some extent. It is the Government's grievance against Mr. Clive Jenkins to some extent that, they say, he is going ahead and fighting for the members of his union, which is almost a criminal offence. If it 631 is not a criminal offence, it is a very offensive attitude for him to take.
The Government may for a short time be able to sustain a situation where leaders and officers of trade unions are invoked by Government or patriotic appeals—call them what we will—to do something which is absolutely opposed to and in defiance of their nature as trade union officers, but the Government cannot do that for very long because people will not do it. What is to happen in those unions? What will happen in those unions which can claim higher wages? They will not stand for it. Because the officers of these unions must carry out the obligations to their own unions, and one of the obligations is to work for higher wages for their members.
If the Government go on saying to them "You must not do that", what will occur? Either the leaders of those unions will be forced into an open clash with the Government, or they will lose members. Or they will find people will say, "It is not worth being a member of a trade union." They may have studied the debates which we have had in the House of Commons on these Orders, and they may say, "There is a positive disadvantage in being a member of a trade union, because one is more likely to be penalised by Orders issued by the Government than if one is outside a trade union". I do not think that anybody who has listened to the debates we have had on these Orders can deny that that is a possible situation.
So we have the situation that for the period of this Bill, for the next 12 months, the anguish which trade union officers have had to endure will be intensified. We are going to have a relaxation of the wages pause, we are going to have a 6 per cent. increase of wages, according to the Government's calculation, by the end of the year, and we are saying to certain trade unions that if they persist in pressing their demands outside the procedure laid down by the Bill they may get into trouble.
I admit that there are many operations to go through before we reach this result, but eventually we shall reach the situation that trade union officers engaged in their normal business of trying to campaign 632 and work for wage increases to which their members are entitled will come up against this Clause. If it is not possible for them to come up against it, the Clause is superfluous, but if it is possible for them to come up against it, it is more likely that that will happen in the next 12 months than it was likely to have happened in the last 12 months, precisely because we are to have a relaxation of the wages pause in certain spheres, and that will intensify the pressure on different trade unions to press forward with their wages demands, and they may be pressed in circumstances which are against the provisions laid down by the Government.
The Government may ask me, "What is your alternative?" If I were to try to answer that in this debate I should be out of order. Many of us, on other occasions, have sought to explain what are our alternative economic measures for dealing with the Government's very real dilemma. What we are saying about this Clause is that we do not accept that this is a tolerable alternative. We do not accept a provision which would impose an economic policy of this nature, with such sanctions as these. We do not accept this as being a tolerable alternative to the economic difficulties.
It is not merely that we think that this is opposed to Labour principles and Socialist principles, but, as I have tried to explain, because it will, in my belief, become increasingly unworkable, because the provisions of this Bill are fundamentally opposed to what is the natural instinct of trade unions and those who are conducting trade union business. For that reason, too, I think the Government, in their own interests, would be very wise to withdraw this subsection. It would be very satisfactory for the Government to know that there would be no possibility of any action having to be taken against any trade union leader in the next 12 months. If we got to the situation in which the Government had to take action against a trade union leader or officer we should be in a parlous state indeed.
It would be very much better that the Government should not have the temptation. If they were to remove it, they would get the credit for their generosity; they would get credit for having listened to the debate; they would get credit from us for having improved the Bill. And 633 as far as I can see, they would not suffer any disadvantage whatever, particularly as the Government have said that it is unlikely that there will be a resort to this kind of measure.
They can argue, of course—and this is the old long-stop argument in a different guise—that if they remove the deterrent, they do not know what the terrible trade unionists will get up to. But that cannot he argued successfully at the same time as they appeal for co-operation from the trade union movement. I do not think that the trade union movement itself would desire that such reserve powers should be kept for use against a so-called selfish minority among its numbers, but would prefer the powers to be wiped away altogether.
I come now to the point which has been made about the vote. It has been said that the vote is very narrow, and if those of us who have abstained on previous Amendments were to vote against the Government on this occasion, it might be that the Government would be defeated. I am not saying that there are not occasions when that would be the proper course, but I do not think that it would be on this occasion, and no one has the right to suggest that we are insincere in moving this Amendment if we do not follow that course.
I regard votes in this House as a serious matter. The way that an hon. Member votes is a test of him in the last resort. I understand that, and I do not wish to apologise for any vote in that sense. What those of us who move this Amendment wish to do is to change the policy of the Government. We do not want to change the Government. We do not want to remove a Labour Government. We do not want to put in the other lot. We want to change the policy of the Government and, with respect to the hon. and learned Member for Darwen, or even to his more distinguished or less distinguished leaders on the Front Bench, we may know better how to influence our Front Bench than they do. It may be that the very worst way to try and influence them to do anything would be to get into too guilty an association with hon. Gentlemen opposite. If we were to do so, we might destroy such influence as we have, and therefore—[Interruplion.] I have just been told that if I Went into the Government, it would cause 634 a run on the £. I have often wondered why it was that I was left out. Now I know the reason.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may jeer at us and say that we have no influence, if they wish. Of course, we should like to have more influence than we have, but what we have the right to do, along with every other hon. Member, is to see how best, by associating with those of us who have similar views, we can exert our influence on the Government of the day. As hon. Members on all sides know, that is not a matter to be decided solely on the way in which people vote in one Division. It is a matter to be decided on how they vote over a large number of occasions and how they exercise such influence as they possess in different quarters.
I do not think that many hon. Gentlemen opposite have the right to accuse my hon. Friends and myself that we have been lacking in valour, to adopt the word which was used about the Leader of the House, in the way in which we vote in the House. We have a perfectly creditable record on these matters.
The very fact that this appeal has been made and that some of us will not be taunted into indiscretion or folly by hon. Gentlemen opposite should underline to the Government how slender is the ice on which they are skating with this Bill. It is true that their majority is getting smaller and smaller. I do not think that they have very strong backing from this side of the House either for the Measure as a whole or for this Clause.
I think that in the trade union movement they have even less backing for this Measure as a whole than for the Clause. I hope that the Government will draw some lessons from the debates of the last two nights and will recognise that they have not been able to prove the case for their economic policy as a whole.
Many of us bitterly opposed, and fiercely denounced, the measures which the Government introduced on 20th July last year, of which this is one of the children, to use the most polite phrase that will be used about it. Many of us prophesied what would be the result of those policies, and anyone who looks to see what has happened can see that our prophesies, rather than the Government's, 635 have tended to be confirmed over the last twelve months.
It may be too much to ask the Government to reconsider the whole Bill, but if, by deeds, they wish to assure the country that they wish to get this Bill, and this Clause, off the Statute Book as quickly as possible, they should get rid of this Clause tonight. This would be an assurance that they want to get rid of the whole Bill as soon as they can.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Like everyone else in the House, I have always regarded the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) as an effective and persuasive Parliamentarian. I particularly so regard him when he makes a speech with which I agree as to the greater part of it, but I was sorry—and I hope that he will take this from me with sincerity—that he devoted his great gifts to a very skilful argument in favour of the proposition that he and his hon. Friends should not carry the Amendment, and their powerful arguments for it, to what most hon. Members regard as the logical conclusion in the Division Lobby.
The hon. Gentleman said that he had other methods of influencing his right hon. Friend. It would perhaps be indiscreet to inquire too closely into what they are but they have not been very successful so far. And I say with great diffidence that the hon. Gentleman was guilty of an error in Parliamentary tactics when he made it quite clear, at this early stage of the proceedings, that under no circumstances was he prepared to back the Amendment in the Division Lobby.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's attitude about the Government being defeated, but if he wants concessions by the Government he enormously weakened his tactical position to apply pressure by announcing in advance that under no circumstances, however inadequate, or indeed however provocative, might be the reply, would he and his hon. Friends vote against the Government. It may be that he had decided he was not going to anyway, but it would have been wiser to have left the Government in a little doubt about this. Might that not have induced, as these situations do, as anyone who has served in the Government knows, a certain mood of conciliation? Might there not have been a hurried meeting in the little room behind the 636 Chair in which the Departmental Ministers would be induced to make a gesture? I thought that the hon. Gentleman was letting down a serious point by taking the line that he did.
Both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) talked a good deal of sense on the merits of the matter. I have always had the gravest doubts about the introduction of the criminal law into industrial negotiations. It has been tried but has hardly ever worked.
What puzzled me during the speech of the hon. Member for Tottenham was his rather lengthy reference to the Honours List. Left-Wing Governments tend to cause these to proliferate. The Prime Minister has created more peers than anybody in history in a comparable time, and it was, after all, the great Lloyd George whose creations caused the City of Cardiff to be known generally as the "City of Dreadful Knights".
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made a fair point when he reproached my hon. Friends. I am not saying that I am necessarily in favour of softness in the legal treatment of trade unions. In all honesty and frankness I must say that, on the civil side, the immunity enjoyed by trade unions from action by a person aggrieved because of events occurring during a trade dispute is something that should be looked at. But this is different. This is not a question of the civil side of the law; it is a question of criminal penalties. It is not a question of putting trade unions in the position of everyone else. There is much to be said for that in civil law. This is a case of singling out trade unions for special and adverse treatment under the criminal law.
It is quite consistent for people, like me, who have often expressed grave doubts whether it is right that trade unions should be allowed to have privileges in civil litigation—which were rightly given to them when they were small and weak and poor sixty years ago but which sit rather ill on them today, when they are rich and powerful, and can sometimes do injustice to individuals who are denied their normal right of access to the courts—to say, on the other hand, that to single out trade unions, as the Government did last year, for worse treatment than other people 637 under the criminal law is wrong, and that the provisions that allows this should go, even though, on other occasions when we should be in order in doing so—though I doubt whether we should on this occasion—we may argue that their immunity, on the civil side, from persons aggrieved requires consideration.
What makes this so artificial is that it is conceded that there have been no cases. Does the First Secretary seriously expect that there will be any? If not, surely it is wrong to have this provision on the statute book. Surely it is wrong o have criminal penalties enacted if there is no reasonable likelihood of using Item? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that in a year's operation of this provision it has never been invoked, and will tell us whether he thinks there is the slightest possibility that he will need to invoke it during the currency of the present Measure.
Secondly, I should like to know whether, if this Clause continues to operate, it will affect hon. Members. Orders made under last year's Act are highly political in their effect. The right hon. Gentleman knows that my hon. Friends have voted against every Order that he has made. If outside the House hon. Members make speeches saying that it is absolutely monstrous that these Orders should have been made and a strike follows upon our speeches, will we be held to have taken steps to persuade others to take part in that strike? Is it really suggested that what in my view would be legitimate political action by hon. Members might involve them in criminal penalties? The right hon. End learned Attorney-General was in the Chamber earlier on, but he has now gone. The House should be clear on this point.
Let me come down to brass tacks. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I took a very strong line against what I regarded as the mean little Order that he made against the increase which the employers of the limb fitters at Roehampton—Messrs. Hangers—had agreed to give those men who do a vital job for the war disabled and other limbless. I took tie view—and I hold it still—that it was a mean, petty little Order, which had nothing to do with the national economy. I; the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that he could invoke the criminal law 638 against me if I said that in my own constituency in the neighbourhood of Roehampton and a strike followed? I make no pretence to great persuasive powers, but, on a case as good as that, it is at least possible that some of those concerned might be inclined to take action. In the particular case to which I have referred, I should deplore it, because of its consequences for the injured, but it could happen if one were to stress the attack which I then made, and still make, on the Government for their mean and shabby conduct.
Whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not, these are political issues. Every Order has been a political issue. The Opposition have firmly opposed them all. If we go on opposing them in speeches which attack the making of them as unfair and unjust, are we not at least getting near this subsection? Is it right that we should be exposed to that for expressing a legitimate view, a view which, moreover, is held by 90 per cent. of the country? Would speeches outside or even inside the House be within the scope of the criminal penalties? I put the question to the right hon. Gentleman, because it is a vivid illustration of the mess he gets into when he brings criminal penalties into the matter.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) pointed out that we have here an opportunity to take this provision out of last year's Act, thanks to the sensible action of the hon. Member for Tottenham and his hon. Friends in putting down the Amendment. This is a responsibility of the House. If hon. Members follow their views on the bare merits of the matter, there will be an overwhelming majority saying that it should be taken out. Hon. Members opposite, apparently, are not prepared to follow the logic of their argument to a conclusion. That is their business. But, if the right hon. Gentleman were to accept the Amendment, he would be giving way to the general view of the House and of the country, and he would be doing no more than taking off the Statute Book a provision which has never been invoked and which he will not say is ever likely to be invoked.
Nothing but obstinancy can cause the right hon. Gentleman to resist the Amendment. The Act was pushed 639 through last year without proper discussion, shoved through in the middle of the night, with its major part introduced in Committee. Those circumstances have already involved the right hon. Gentleman in embarrassment and difficulty. He now has the chance, at relative leisure, to look at one subsection of it. He does not need that subsection. Can he not rise above Departmental narrowness and personal obstinacy and take it out now?
§ Mr. Orme
It is twelve months since we debated the original Act and the provisions of Part II, which were never implemented because they were superseded by Part IV. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that the Government had not used it; they have not been in a position to do so, and not until the end of this debate when Part II is activated for the first time will they be able to use it.
The debate on these provisions in the original Bill was led on this side by the then right hon. Member for Nuneaton, Mr. Frank Cousins. It was a memorable debate. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) was leading for the Opposition at the time. It was a rather unique debate; all the participants were from this side of the House but for the right hon. Gentleman, who made a small contribution, though I acknowledge that the Opposition voted against the Clause at the end. Mr. Cousins moved the deletion of the Clause. First and foremost, our objection was a moral one to this form of legislation, an objection in principle to legislation against trade unions as such. We believe that this is wrong. It is wrong that in a free, democratic society there should be punitive legal sanctions for what we consider to be the legitimate practice of trade unionists in obtaining better wages and conditions for their members. If we have to resort to this we are giving up one of the basic tenets for which we stand. We are not prepared to countenance it. So we opposed it on that occasion.
We were told then that the legislation would be implemented only in extreme circumstances. But we have seen what has happened in relation to Part IV. I remember a Minister telling me "We have had one Order. I think that per, haps we shall not now have any more 640 Orders, or at least it is hoped that we shall not have many more Orders." But we went on to have 14 Orders. In the end they were coming out like confetti. If it had not been for Mr. Clive Jenkins, who suddenly put a stop to it, we might have had more.
Mr. Jenkins was following legitimate trade union practice in going for wage increases for higher-paid workers, particularly justified in a society where one sees rewards going out in all sorts of ways. Why should not people who are using their hand and brain in the interests of increased productivity and our industrial effort get a fair return? I am not a member of Mr. Jenkins' union, and I know that he has been a thorn in the side of the Government, and I also know that he does not carry the full support of the trade union movement or the T.U.C., but I consider that he has been a very valuable instrument in opposing this legislation and in proving some of it to be bad legislation. He has played a very democratic part in our democratic society, and I think that we should acknowledge that. I do not agree on all aspects of policy with Mr. Jenkins, and perhaps in the finality of his conception of an incomes policy, but I think that on this issue credit should go to him and his union.
What worries me is that there is no saying that if we pass this legislation the Government might not see fit to try to take out the thorn in relation to implementing Section 16 of Part II against that union or its members. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said that the Government would not use it. But we have no categorical assurance. If they are not going to use it, there is no need to have the provision and it can be deleted.
As we have said, this is a longstop. In relation to the incomes policy and the longstop, we had a most articulate and erudite explanation from my right hon. Friend last night about what was meant by "voluntary" and "fully voluntary". It would make good reading in Punch, but not in HANSARD. Either the system is completely voluntary, or it is not voluntary.
If my right hon. Friend wants a voluntary system, let him say so and let the 641 Bill be framed accordingly. I recognise that we must not have a tree-for-all, but a voluntary system means that it must be completely voluntary, with the trade union movement accepting certain responsibilities. I assure the Government that the trade unions are aware of the nation's economic difficulties and the need to increase productivity. Nobody can accuse the British trade union movement of being irresponsible, certainly since the war. Indeed, in certain cases the unions might have used their power to get better wages and conditions for their members.
The T.U.C. is opposed to the implementation of Part II. This was made clear at the executives' conference. They expressed themselves against any further legislation along the lines of Part IV, and they are opposed to Part II. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said last night that this is a weaker form of the earlier legislation and that compulsory powers are fading out, but is this true? Part II is now considerably stronger compared with the legislation of July of last year, since the period of delay has been extended from four to seven months. This is, therefore, an even stronger Measure, backed by punitive provisions. It might he said to be weaker than Part IV, but that gave the Government unlimited power for a limited period of 12 months. As I have shown, this legislation is really stronger.
In the disagreements we had with the Government about the incomes policy, we really got bogged down on the question of punitive provisions. We had this out time and again with the First Secretary's predecessor, now the Foreign Secretary, and I repeat what we said then that the trade unions resent this type of legislation and are not prepared to accept it, from this or any other Government. With co-operation from our well-organised and highly sensible trade unions, the Government could obtain economic growth and development without these punitive provisions. Why threaten the unions in this minimal way? We have been challenged over voting, but few hon. Members opposite have acted as we have over our principles in this Parliament, but we will make up our own minds.
642 I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the Clause. It will be a sticking point for the trade union movement and it will be returned to again and again: I will not be satisfied until it is deleted.
§ Mr. Higgins
This has been a fine debate and it is sad that it should be taking place at this time of the morning, when it will receive limited Press coverage. The Government have been "trigger-happy" in moving Closures of these debates, and I hope that if they do so on this occasion we shall have the support of hon. Members opposite.
The debate stems from one in Committee on 2nd August last year, when two Amendments were moved by the then right hon. Member for Nuneaton, Mr. Cousins, and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). Mr. Cousins said that the First Secretary, who is now the Foreign Secretary,… having repeatedly mentioned his associaton with my own organisation, will realise that this Clause must send shudders down the spine of all those trade unionists who read it. It makes a criminal offence of normal trade union action.These words were echoed in the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), who used the expressions "bad economics", "morally wrong" and "politically disastrous". This is the Clause of the parent Act which hon. Members want to remove from the Bill and it is helpful to consider the Amendment in the light of last year's events.
Mr. Cousins last year said:I have very little hope that we shall get trade unionists to understand that if an employer refuses more money, and refuses under instruction from a Government, and they then get round to the stage of saying they will take action in the normal way, they would then be guilty of committing an offence punishable by law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 2nd August, 1966, c. 371, 374.]But the Government have taken no action under these penal provisions. The Clause will be a temptation to them and there is no guarantee that they will not act under it. The Government are not retreating, as they said they would, from Part IV to Part II but are perpetuating Part IV, especially in this case.
Yesterday, I asked a Question about the Birmingham car delivery case. We 643 still do not know if the Government propose to do anything in that case, although the ostensible reason for including the Clause is in some sense an illusion. We believe, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) pointed out, that it is a paper tiger. Nonetheless we are opposed to these actions and this Clause in particular, because it is distasteful.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East said last year that we proposed to support Mr. Cousins and added:We dislike intensely these sections, the penalty on trade unions and all the impact of the Bill as a whole on employers and employees".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 2nd August, 1966; c. 375.]It is abundantly clear to hon. Members that the reasons why we might go into the Lobby are considerably divergent. It would be wrong for us to suggest that we do not believe that there are radical needs for a reform of the law on trade unions. But we do not believe that this kind of legal action should be taken.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) pointed out that this brings in the criminal law rather than the civil law, and this makes a fundamental difference to the whole approach of the Government to the Bill. We realise that hon. Members opposite will make up their own minds on the Amendment, but they certainly oppose, as we oppose, the element of intimidation and compulsion. We feel that this is contradicting fundamental industrial relations and, for that reason, I hope that my hon. Friends will join me in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Mendelson
On a point of order. Several of us have been here since ten o'clock and have listened to the whole of the debate. It would be most unfair if we did not have an opportunity to speak on this major Amendment, which is the most important of all.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member will appreciate that that is not a point of order. The Chair does its best in selecting hon. Members who rise to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
We should notice that the Amendment relates to what are described as the penal sections not merely of Part IV or in relation to the Bill. It would have been possible to frame an Amendment saying that any actions of this kind arising out of any standstill powers in the Bill should not have penal sanctions applied to them. But the Amendment goes wider than that and we must discuss it on the understanding that we are not now simply concerned with the special provisions of the Bill and Part IV. We are concerned with a proposal that the penal section of Part II should disappear permanently. I want to make clear what is at issue.
It should also be made clear that the Government are moving from a position of greater legal powers to a position of lesser legal powers. I do not think that that can be seriously disputed. The point of the Amendment is that even if there were no Part IV or lesser powers in the Bill, the supporters of the Amendment would still object to the existence of the penal Clause in Part II.
Let us analyse what Part II does. It provides for a standstill for a lesser period than was provided for and solely for the purpose of having the facts of the matter brought in for examination by the Prices and Incomes Board. The principle in Part II is very much more limited than that of Part IV. This is a process of asking the parties to halt while the whole question is examined. Moreover, if people hold a wage increase for that very limited period and for that purpose, there is nothing in Part II to prevent them from getting the pay retrospectively after the standstill is over.
One should therefore notice the very limited and circumscribed position of the powers under Part II. It is entirely open to hon. Members to say that despite the limited nature of Part II they do not believe that for that period—even for that limited period—and even with the possibility of retrospective payment thereafter, there ought to be even that temporary standstill on wages in any circumstances at all. But that does not seem to me to be a reasonable position to take up in all circumstances.
Further, Part II can never be in existence unless the House by affirmative Resolution has brought it into existence, 645 and once that has been done, it can exist only for a maximum of 12 months. I stress how limited the whole situation is. For these penal Clauses to come into action, the House must have decided that it is legitimate to activate Part II—and that cannot be done for an unlimited period but only for a maximum of 12 months at once. Even when that is done, it is still possible to impose the standstill only for the limited period and for this limited purpose.
If a standstill comes into existence in these special circumstances we might have this position: an employer has been precluded by law from paying a wage increase for this limited period. If the Amendment were passed the employer would be precluded by law from paying the increase, but people who took strike action against him in order to try to compel him to do something which he could not do without breaking the law could do so with impunity. I state that because it seems to me that if we accept the proposition that it is reasonable to have a standstill in the first place, then I do not think it can be maintained that it is reasonable to put an employer in that position.
The argument for the Amendment, therefore, must be that it is wrong, even for the limited period and the limited time of Part II, to have a standstill at all. I do not believe that a difference of opinion on the question whether it should ever be right to have a standstill for this limited time and purpose can be regarded as a fundamental difference in principle about the rights of trade unions. This is a difference on a matter of judgment as to the management of the prices and incomes policy.
§ Mr. Biffen
What would be the position of trade unionists who struck to persuade employers to make a retrospective wage increase after the period of standstill has expired? The strike takes place during the period of standstill, the demand being that the retrospective payment should operate at the end of the period of standstill.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is clear that they were not trying to induce the employer to break the order, and therefore they would not be committing a criminal offence. That is fairly plain. I think that a certain degree of obstinacy must 646 be encountered on both sides—employer and trade union—before a situation of that kind could conceivably arise.
I have been asked what is the likelihood that this power would be used at all. The Government as such have some influence on the extent to which this power might come into play in so far as it is they who decide what orders to make. It is not, of course, the Government who decide whether in any particular case a prosecution should be launched. That, as always, is not a matter for the Government but for the Attorney-General acting in his judicial capacity. The influence of the Government in the matter lies simply in the orders they make.
The Government have demonstrated throughout the currency of Part IV that they do not make orders recklessly. I further assert that, during such time as Part II is in force, they will exercise similar caution and commonsense in any orders they may make.
The question of the use of this power comes down to this: One first has to accept that the situation has so developed that Parliament approves the activation of Part II. Then the Government have to decide that, in the exercise of their powers under Part II, they will make certain orders. Then one has further to suppose that, all this having happened, some group of people tries to compel an employer to break the law, to do something that the order forbids. One must further suppose that, the facts having been drawn to his attention, the Attorney-General considers it right to launch a prosecution.
Having loked at all these steps, the reply I give to the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and to those of my hon. Friends who raised this matter, is that it is extremely unlikely that this power would be used—extremely unlikely. I am then asked, "Then why have it in at all?". But the House frequently passes laws containing certain provisions about which one could say that it was extremely unlikely that anyone would so behave that they would be held to be in breach of the law. We never pass laws which say that people who break them will not be liable to any penalty. I hope that the House will not regard this as a flippant example, but some years 647 ago we passed a Statute requiring the directors of the Tate Gallery to do certain things and in my innocence, not being a lawyer, seeing that there did not appear to be a penal clause, I asked what would happen if they did not do these things. I was assured that they would be guilty of a misdemeanour in common law and might be sent to prison for two years. Of course, this was highly unlikely to happen.
It is highly unlikely to happen in this case but it would be impossible for any Government in any Statute to say, "Here is something required by law but we undertake in advance that literally in no circumstances whatever will anyone be prosecuted." That would not be a enable position. For the reasons I have advanced it is extremely unlikely that such a situation would arise in this case. The Government, by the exercise of their order making power, would always endeavour to ensure that they did not behave in a provocative and silly manner.
§ Mr. Mikardo
One can understand that there must be circumstances in which the Government must legislate for the odd, exceptional case. But does my right hon. Friend think it worth while to do that when the legislation that might never be used is so offensive to a very large section of the community that it destroys the possibility of the voluntary co-operation that the Government want? Is the game worth the candle in this case?
§ Mr. Stewart
Clearly, on a matter of fact, my hon. Friend is wrong. The trade union movement has made it perfectly clear, that despite its differences with the Government about what statutory powers there ought to be, it does not regard those differences as a reason for refusing voluntary co-operation. That has been made clear over and over again.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames raised what I am bound to regard as the bogey of hon. Members who oppose these Orders, possibly in violent language, not in the House, being subsequently prosecuted. The right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished lawyer and will surely accept that there is an enormous difference of principle between saying that this is a bad, unjust, wicked law and inciting people to break it. If 648 there is not that distinction, then a great deal of what we call democracy is in peril, because one of the basic ideas of a State which proceeds according to the rule of law in anything approaching democracy is that citizens should be prepared to say, "We obey the law and do not incite people to break the law made by a democratically elected Parliament, but we reserve our right to say that we think that this is a scandalous law and we will rouse public opinion to get it changed in the proper constitutional manner."
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
What the right hon. Gentleman has just stated is impeccable. What is in issue is its applicability to this provision—or persuade others to take part in a strike".If an hon. Member makes a speech deeply critical of one of these Orders and does so in an area where the employees concerned live and a strike follows, including among those taking part people who have listened to that speech, might it not be said that he had persuaded them to take part in that strike?
The right hon. Gentleman said that prosecutions would take place only on the authorisation of the Attorney-General. Will he confirm that that is so under this provision?
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes. Prosecutions under this provision require the consent of the Attorney-General.
I must remind the House how wildly hypothetical we are now getting. For a prosecution to succeeed, it would have to be shown that the person making the speech was at the very least persuading. To say, "I regard this as a scandalous law" cannot reasonably be held to be the same thing as, "I urge or persuade you to break it". The two propositions are not the same. [Interruption.] Surely my hon. Friends accept that. Were there not many instances during the years of Tory Government when we said at meetings that we regarded this, that or the other law as infamous? Could it be said that on each occasion when we did that we were deliberately inciting people to break the law? I do not think that that can be so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) mentioned the Education Acts. This was some long 649 time ago, but the people there concerned did what they did deliberately, knowing, and making no bones about it, that they were persuading. My hon. Friend was concerned simply about people making a speech to say that this was a bad law and being told afterwards that they were inciting others to break it.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman keeps referring to a bad law. The law is not at issue. What is at issue is a bad individual action of the Government in making a particular Order. That is very different.
§ Mr. Stewart
That is quite right. I should have said a bad Order, but the point is the same. The Order would have the force of law, but there is an enormous difference between saying that it is a bad Order which ought not to have been made and persuading people to break it.
There must be a difference between being able to express one's opinion as to whether a law is good or bad, and persuading people to break it. If my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) has any doubt about this, is he to maintain that saying that the law is bad is the same as persuading people to break it? If he persuades people that this is true he will put a large number of his hon. Friends in danger for speeches that they have made during the years of Tory government. The two things are not the same. I must dismiss the bogey conjured up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod).
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
My right hon. Friend still has not got the point. Is it not a fact that the wording of this section is so widely drawn that the use of the words "compel, induce or influence" provides for the inclusion of even the most mild form of persuasion to be brought within its purview?
§ Mr. Stewart
No, because all those words follow after taking action that is intended to have that effect. There must be the intention to put the employer in a position where he has to break the law. We need not pursue this point further, because it is common ground that the circumstances in which any prosecution could arise are very few indeed. The House wants to be assured of that. What I cannot accept is the further argument that because the circumstances are very 650 few, no penal sanction should be there at all. That is not a proposition that one could accept in the making of a law. We make a great many laws and we hope and expect that the number of occasions when they will be broken and when criminal prosecutions will follow, will be very small. We should not say that for that reason we should make laws without penal sanctions.
I want to take up the wider issue of principle involved in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), who moved this Amendment. He said that Government policy was to provide stimulants for people who make profits, and deterrents for wage earners. That is a totally incomplete picture. One of the things that we have sought to encourage by the prices and incomes policy is the promotion of productivity agreements. This is one example of a clear stimulant to people who earn their living by wages and salaries.
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend is a good enough Parliamentarian to know that a thing can be of full force in a Bill even if one has to dig out in the Schedule the reference to it. He will know that in an Act regulating the form of worship in the Church of England the whole of the Book of Common Prayer is a Schedule to the Act.
§ Mr. Mikardo
May I give my right hon. Friend the most categorical assurance that I did not know that.
§ Mr. Stewart
The number of interesting things that we learn from one another during these debates is quite remarkable.
The reason why last night we rejected the Amendment about productivity agreements was that there is already in the Bill, via the Schedule, a part encouraging productivity agreements. Last night's Amendments would actually, although the movers did not realise it, have circumscribed the Minister's powers to promote productivity agreements.
§ Mr. Stewart
I beg your pardon. I was taking up an interjection by my hon. Friend. This matter arose from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for 651 Tottenham, who said that we were providing nothing but deterrents for workers, and stimulants for those who made profits. I was saying that part of the nature of the prices and incomes policy is to point continually to the connection between increased productivity and the possibility of increasing real wages through increased productivity. This is a stimulant. In general my hon. Friend tried to argue that the Government's approach to wages was wholly oppressive. What I think he has not noticed is that what matters in the end to wage-earners is real wages rather than money wages. What matters to all people who have incomes is the real purchasing value of those incomes and not the amount in pounds, shillings and pence. One purpose of having a prices and incomes policy is to protect the level of real wages.
My hon. Friend presented what I am bound to regard as a fascinating but inventive story of bargains between this Government and foreign Governments about what is to be in the statute. We need not pay much attention to that; it belongs to the astrology column. It must be apparent to any Government that the health of its economy and the strength of its currency are closely bound up with the relation between two things—the growth of its real wealth and the growth of its money incomes. If the latter outstrips the former seriously, real trouble will arise which will affect everybody.
The aim of this policy is not as my hon. Friend seemed to think, to repress wages, but to get that correspondence between money income and the growth of real wealth on which everyone's prosperity depends. All aspects of the matter, including the one we are debating, have to be considered with that in mind. I ask the House to notice that the nature of this Amendment—which relates not simply to this Bill or Part IV but to Part II of the statute—is such that it would remove a penal sanction which, if the circumstances in which we had Part II and Orders made thereunder had arisen, it would then be not unreasonable to have and which should not give rise on any reasonable interpretation of events to the rather alarmist pictures which have been sketched on both sides of the House. That is both the common sense of the 652 matter and, I think, the lesson of the experience during the time that Part IV has been in operation.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I intervene in this debate to refer to the point which is involved and which is of great concern, particularly to those who represent constituencies in which there are large numbers of trade unionists. My right hon. Friend, in the speech he has just made, has given those of us who are called to speak after him an opportunity to concentrate heavily on the decisive points in his arguments. Before doing so, I wish to say how very pleased I am that the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in his contribution made the assertion that he was in favour of serious amendments of the law which would deal with trade unions.
We are debating tonight the introduction in this Bill of the same principle that was applicable to the earlier legislation and many objections are being raised to it. I suggest that we must concentrate clearly on the actual provisions. In general accusations of this Government being concerned to circumscribe the activities of trade unions would be beside the point. I leave that by merely saying that I have far greater fear of the plans in the minds of the right hon. Member and of the Leader of the Opposition, judging by past performance of the party opposite and what they want to do with the trade union movement, than any fear I have of the plans of the First Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. I think that is very important and should not be overlooked when we have these high-flown speeches from the other side.
My right hon. Friend concentrated on the actual provision to which many of my hon. Friends object, but I think he underestimated the strength of feeling at the present time in the trade union movement on the application of the criminal law to trade unionists who are in pursuit of ordinary trade union activities. I do not believe this point has been made in just those words in the debate so far.
We are not dealing here, as my right hon. Friend well knows, with borderline activities which have been subject to the criminal law for a long time—for instance, how people behave in a picket 653 line. I need not labour the point because most hon. Members have had experience of the problems which arise during a strike. What we are dealing with here is the application of the criminal law for the first time for many years to industrial relations and industrial legislation and to what are normally perfectly legal industrial activities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames referred to many aspects of this.
But the first case we have to consider is one which has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with divisions between various parties of Members of the House of Commons. What the Bill seeks to make illegal is the attempt by a group of workmen to persuade their employer to adopt a different course on a wage bargain. This is by far the most serious aspect of this part of the legislation, and, as I understand it, that is the main burden of my hon. Friend's argument in seeking to delete it by his Amendment. To this point my right hon. Friend has given no reply at all.
Nor do I believe that he was accurate in his assessment of trade union opinion on this matter when he replied to a point made previously by my hon. Friend who, he said categorically, was wrong in his assessment of trade union opinion.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Of course, my right hon. Friend completely misunderstood my intervention. He may get members of the General Council not to object to the Clause, but the point is that the first time any trade union leader is proceeded against under the Clause—and my guess is that none will pay a fine, and that will put the Attorney-General on the spot a; to whether to put him in prison—the first time a trade union leader or a shop steward is put in prison under this, the Government's policy has gone for a Burton.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The intervention which my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) has made now, although a very interesting one, is quite a different one from the one he made in my speech.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I think we will have to leave to HANSARD and history the accuracy of that particular statement, but let us take my hon. Friend's intervention as he has now made it. Maybe it is the mark 2 version of his original intervention. Let us take the last form of the intervention, and take it as the basis for debate.
If we take it in this way, then the point which my right hon. Friend and the Government have failed to face so far is this. It is all very well to say they hope this legislation will never have to be used, particularly all these stages which have to be gone through, but there is here a major difference between Part IV and this Bill. Part IV was meant to apply a general standstill for a period of immediate emergency. Here we have a position where there are going to be value judgments given as to what is a reasonable claim. It will not be a simple matter of saying that no claims can be allowed. It will be a matter where passions may be aroused, particularly as we move out of the period of standstill and the period of severe restraint. Groups of workpeople may be convinced that, having waited so long, their claim is one which is fully justified, and they may, therefore, easily come to the conclusion that they are entitled to apply ordinary methods of persuasion to their employers.
What my right hon. Friend has failed to reply to is the profoundly important point that arises. If such groups of work people are trying to persuade their employers and, as so often happens in the course of conversation across a table, they mention that they are so convinced that their claim is right that, unless agreement is reached, there might be enough feeling among the men whom they represent for strike action to be decided upon, will my right hon. Friend apply the law and say that a criminal offence is being committed under this Clause? It is important for us who represent many trade unionists and work people in our constituencies to worry about this much more than the point which worries the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. We have little concern for the position of Members of Parliament. They can look after themselves.
What we have reason to inquire into before the legislation is passed is whether 655 this Clause, without the Amendment, would not seriously endanger considerable numbers of work people who are acting quite innocently and in the belief that they are pursuing normal negotiations with their employers. It is to this point that no reply has been given. Because no reply has been given, it is all the more essential that the Government should accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Biffen
If the House of Commons were an educational establishment, one might reasonably call this discussion "The Frank Cousins Memorial Debate". It is almost exactly a year ago that precisely this Amendment to delete Section 4 was moved in Standing Committee on the Prices and Incomes Bill, at six o'clock in the morning of 2nd August—
§ Mr. Biffen
It is not for me to say how long it will go, but my contribution will not be long.
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) made some comment which I thought was slightly disparaging to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) about the nature of any penal legislation which might flow from Tory Party policy. However, in moving precisely this Amendment, Mr. Frank Cousins said a year ago:I would suggest that this is likely to do more damage to the relationship between … trade unionists and their employers, than anything that has happened in my lifetime, inclunding the 1926 Act."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, Standing Committee B, 2nd August, 1966; c. 374.]I believe that those words are the most formidable indictment of the significance of the legislation which the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) is seeking to delete by his Amendment.
There is no doubt that, when it was first ventilated a year ago, it was in the context that it will never be used. Indeed, a year ago the proposition was that Part II was never likely to be invoked, and again one needs no more evidence than the remarks of Mr. Frank Cousins during that debate, when he said:It is a nice sounding phrase that says 'I do not intend to put Part II into effect. I hope the voluntary system will work', but the auto- 656 matic response is What if it does not work?'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 2nd August, 1966; c. 373.]We know that the culmination of tonight's debate will be an Order invoking Part II of the prices and incomes legislation. The fear is that there is an element of drug addiction on the part of the Treasury Bench, and that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been hooked into some form of continuing intervention. Although the argument may be that the Amendment is not necessary because the Order will lapse after twelve months, bearing in mind the experience of the last twelve months, does anyone doubt that there will be another Bill twelve months from now?
The third point which I would like to make is one which has been made several times. It relates to the sheer practicability of the legislation. A number of hon. Members have made the point that the legislation is very loosely drawn. These arguments were made last year. Between last year and today we have had the experience and advantage of seeing what Mr. Clive Jenkins and a bevy of lawyers can do to ill-drafted legislation. This should be a constant warning and reminder to the House that, for the sake of its own good name and reputation, it should ensure that the legislation it passes can stand the test of examination in the courts. If it cannot, it should not be proceeded with, and the Amendment seeks to delete a thoroughly ill-drafted piece of legislation.
The hon. Gentleman has an obligation on two counts. First, if the Amendment is not pressed to a Division, and he does not vote with us, there is a likelihood that this indifferent legislation will go through and remain on the Statute Book, to the discredit of Parliament. Secondly, this is not so much a paper tiger, with respect to my hon. Friends, as a potential Trotskyites' charter which will undermine every responsible trade union leader, and place a tremendous power in the hands of every shop floor agitator. It is wrong to say that employers may be at some marginal disadvantage if the Amendment is passed. If the Amendment is passed, it will curb the activities of shop floor wreckers, and I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. George H. Perry), who, on an identical Amendment moved twelve months ago, was prepared to march through the Lobbies with the Tory Party, 657 at least vocally, as it was in Committee upstairs, will take the stand that he did then, because nothing that has happened since then can convince him that the Government have moved towards the position advocated by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot).
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is the doyen of radicals, corrosive in debate, charming in style, but without a formidable record when it comes to the use of power and influence. Have the Government really moved so much towards his position that he can advise his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South to behave in a totally different way this evening from what he nobly did twelve months ago?
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
I am sorry if I am in any way keeping out some hon. Members opposite. It is difficult for me to comment on this. Patronage Secretaries of all parties and Governments sometimes take on a suspicious look, and I had a feeling that unless .I stake my claim to wind up at the Dispatch Box now I might be too late. I hope that hon. Members opposite will realise that I have not kept them out.
We cannot let the debate come to an end without protesting strongly at the nature of the reply which we have had from the First Secretary. At one time, towards the end, his speech degenerated into a general knowledge class. After the first few moments of his speech I could not help wondering whether he had not got his brief mixed up. It seemed to have nothing to do with the substance of the Amendment.
In his opening remarks he addressed himself to the Amendment. His argument seemed to be designed to stress how limited were the powers in Part II of the 1966 Act. The only conclusion that we could draw from that was that the First Secretary was telling the House, "A heavy penalty is less heavy if it is applied to a less heavy offence." The only argument of substance that he adduced for resisting the Amendment concerned the employer being protected by law from paying an increase and being subject to pressure by a strike or a threat of a strike from his employees. He said that such an employer needed some protection in that respect. But is this a real 658 protection? As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said earlier, the Government are paying lip service to fairness. It is only a paper tiger. It is not a real protection. As the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said, if the Government ever used this power the balloon would go up and the whole policy would collapse. The Government's argument about fairness is a purely theoretical one, which has no practical bearing on the case. The provision does not give any real protection or sense of fairness to employers. It is hypocritical lip service to the idea of fairness.
The remarkable thing about the provision which the Amendments seeks to remove is that it is in Part II of last year's Act, and not Part IV. We are told—and this is the Government's whole case—that the compulsory stage is a temporary one, and the new stage into which the Bill takes us is a move towards voluntary system. But is it, when it has a Clause like this in it? Is it a move towards a voluntary policy when it has a Clause imposing criminal sanctions on trade unionists for doing what several hon. Members opposite have pointed out are in the normal course of a trade unionist's functions and duties to do. How can it create the feeling that we are moving into a voluntary system when we are asked to pass a law which has this criminal sanction in it in respect of trade unionists?
I am sure that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was right when he said that the Clause is contrary to the whole spirit as well as the practice of the trade union movement. That movement and a Measure with this Clause in it cannot live together for long. One must go. Here is a cardinal example of what hon. Members on this side of the House—and many hon. Members opposite—have been pointing out to the Government, in the Second Reading debate and on various Amendments and Clauses in Committee and on Report.
The Bill is phoney. We have either to have more compulsion than the Bill provides for, or less. The Government claim, in a wishy-washy way, that they are moving towards this stage. I cannot believe it when they refuse to accept the Amendment.
659 3.45 a.m.
The hon. Member for Tottenham said that "being tough with the trade unions" had at first been thought to be an electoral asset and had now been found not to be, and he went on to say that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was making the same mistake because, in a recent speech, he proposed that we should "get tough" with the trade unions. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) pointed out, there is all the difference in the world between imposing criminal sanctions and penalties on trade unionists for doing what is not only their legal but their natural job and saying, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition did, that one should have a reasonable framework of law and civil liability within which to operate.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that, when his party was in Government, several schemes were canvassed which were intended to circumscribe and limit by law the actions of trade unions in their normal industrial relations and in pursuit of their normal industrial activities? My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham was referring to that.
§ reference has been made. Hon. Members must realise that, if they do not accept the position under the Bill—and we support them in that—there must be an alternative to it. We believe that the sort of alternatives to which my right hon. Friend referred in that speech are coming more and more clearly to be seen as the only practical ones to which we must turn. It is not contrary to freedom to have to operate within a framework of law and to be subject to normal civil liabilities. But it is contrary to freedom to have the policy of this Bill backed by these penal sanctions. This is why we shall on no account support legislation which contains a provision of this kind and why we shall vote against the Government on it.
§ Even at this late stage, I ask the First Secretary of State to think again about it and, at least, to respond to his hon. Friends in something more like the spirit in which they have appealed to him. If ever there was truth in what the hon. Member for Tottenham said about having no feeling for what happens on the shop floor, it was demonstrated by the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
§ Mr. John Silkin rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question put, That the Question be now put:—
The House divided: Ayes 139, Noes 111.
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Price, William (Rugby)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rankin, John||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rees, Merlyn||Tinn, dames|
|Molloy, William||Reynolds, G. W.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Moonman, Eric||Richard, Ivor||Varley, Eric G.|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Moyle, Roland||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Phllip(Derby, S.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Ogden, Eric||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Whitaker, Ben|
|O'Malley, Brian||Sheldon, Robert||Whitlock, William|
|Oram, Albert E.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Oswald, Thomas||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Skeffington, Arthur||Winnick, David|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Small, William||Yates, Victor|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Snow, Julian|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Taverne, Dick||Mr. W. Howie and Mr. Alan Fitch.|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E).||More, Jasper|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Glover, Sir Douglas||Neave, Airey|
|Batsford, Brian||Goodhart, Philip||Nott, John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Grant, Anthony||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Ben, Ronald||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pardoe, John|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Gresham Cooke, R.||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bessell, Peter||Grieve, Percy||Percival, Ian|
|Biffen, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pym, Francis|
|Body, Richard||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hastings, Stephen||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Higgins, Terence L.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Holland, Philip||Royle, Anthony|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hornby, Richard||Sharpies, Richard|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hunt, John||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Carlisle, Mark||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Temple, John M.|
|Cordle, John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Crosthwalte-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Kitson, Timothy||Wall, Patrick|
|Crouch, David||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lubbock, Erie||Webster, David|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Drayson, G. B.||McMaster, Stanley||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||woodnutt, Mark|
|Eden, Sir John||Maddan, Martin||Worsley, Marcus|
|Emery, Peter||Marten, Neil|
|Farr, John||Maude, Angus||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Faster, Sir John||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Monro, Hector|
§ Question put accordingly, That the proposed words be there inserted in the Bill:—
|Division No. 447.]||AYES||[3.58 a.m.|
|Awdry, Daniel||Body, Richard||Costain, A. P.|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Bossom, Sir Clive||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Crouch, David|
|Batsford, Brian||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Davidson, James(Aberdeenshlre,W.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bessell, Peter||Campbell, Gordon||du Cann, Rt. Hn, Edward|
|Biffen, John||Carlisle, Mark||Eden, Sir John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Emery, Peter|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Cary, Sir Robert||Eyre, Reginald|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Cordis, John||Farr, John|
§ The House divided: Ayes 111, Noes 138.
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Fortescue, Tim||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Foster, Sir John||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lubbock, Eric||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Royle, Anthony|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Sharpies, Richard|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||McMaster, Stanley||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Goodhart, Philip||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Grant, Anthony||Maddan, Martin||Tapsell, Peter|
|Grant-Ferris, ft.||Marten, Neil||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gresham Cooke, R,||Maude, Angus||Temple, John M.|
|Grieve, Percy||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Monro, Hector||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Montgomery, Fergus||Webster, David|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||More, Jasper||Whltelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hastings, Stephen||Neave, Airey||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Nott, John||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Holland, Philip||Pardoe, John||Worsley,' Marcus|
|Hornby, Richard||Pearson, Sir Frank (Ctitheroe)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Percival, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hunt, John||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Prior, J. M. L.||Mr. Timothy Kitson.|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pym, Francis|
|Anderson, Donald||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Archer, Peter||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Hamling, William||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Ashley, Jack||Hannan, William||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Barnett, Joel||Harper, Joseph||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Haseldine, Norman||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Hattersley, Roy||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hazell, Bert||Rankin, John|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Rees, Merlyn|
|Boston, Terence||Hilton, W. S.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Boyden, James||Hooley, Frank||Richard, Ivor|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Huckfield, L.||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Robinson, W. 0. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Hunter, Adam||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Cant, R. B.||Johnson, Carol (Lew-sham. S.)||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Chapman, Donald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Coe, Denis||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham.S.)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Concannon, J, D.||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Small, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Leadbitter, Ted||Snow, Julian|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Ledger, Ron||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Taverne, Dick|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Luard, Evan||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Conway)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Thornton, Ernest|
|Delargy, Hugh||McBride, Neil||Tinn, James|
|Dewar, Donald||McCann, John||Tuck, Raphael|
|Dobson, Ray||Macdonald, A. H.||Varley, Eric G.|
|Dunnett, Jack||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Eadie, Alex||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Maclennan, Robert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Ensor, David||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Faulds, Andrew||Molloy, William||Whitlock, William|
|Ford, Ben||Moonman, Eric||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Forrester, John||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Gardner, Tony||Moyle, Roland||Winnick, David|
|Ginsburg, David||Noel-BakerRt.Hn.Philip(Oerby,S.)||Yates, Victor|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Ogden, Eric|
|Gourlay, Harry||O'Malley, Brian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Oram, Albert E.||Mr. W. Howie and Mr. Alan Fitch.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Oswald, Thomas|
|Gregory, Arnold||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I beg to move,That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be adjourned.664 The House has a right to know from the First Secretary, or better still from the Leader of the House, if he would wish 665 to tell us, how much longer we are to continue on the road which we have embarked upon because of the proven incompetence of the Leader of the House in his job. He was told some time ago that the task which he had set the House was impossible, yet we find that at four o'clock on the secoind day we are still on Clause 4. We have the rest of the Report stage, the Third Reading, and, in theory, the Order to take.
I would like to put a particular proposition to the First Secretary. He knows that we detest the Bill, and I am not going into those arguments now. I understand the urgency with which the Government feel they must have the Bill and, having embarked on this, I would not be surprised or resent it if the Government felt that they had to push forward to the end of it. But the same urgency does not and cannot apply to the Order. It is treating the House quite wrongly to ask it to take the Order after we have completed the Bill, and this may be many hours ahead. Anyone with eyes to see could tell last night and can tell again today that the strain which we are putting upon the servants of the House is becoming very nearly intolerable. There were small signs of the beginnings —1 will not say of a break down, but of a standard less than that which they delight to provide for us, and that is not their fault but ours—or rather, the fault of the Leader of the House.
Although I would not wish to dwell on the point, and although I am sure that he would not wish me to dwell on it, I think that the burden which we are putting on Mr. Speaker this week is quite intolerable. I do not think that any man should be asked to bear it. Most of us can get one night or perhaps two nights off, but he has to be here morning, afternoon, evening, night. He has to be here for Closures. The additional burden which the Leader of the House has put on the Chair through morning sittings and by moving Supply into the House must be beginning to tell. I leave it there, but I am sure that the whole House must agree that we must do what we can to lessen that burden.
I leave my remarks there and wait to hear what the First Secretary says. It is certainly more than reasonable at four 666 o'clock in the morning that we should ask what the target is, not in vague terms but in precise terms. I have a feeling that if we can move the Order to some other day—even next week, because there is not the same urgency about it as there is about the Bill—we might be able, with that target set, to make more progress. I therefore suggest specifically to the First Secretary that he should make it clear now that we do not intend to proceed with the Order at this Sitting.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman has put his suggestion clearly and categorically, and if that is—as I think it may be—the view of a considerable section of the House, then I think that it would be right to accede to it. The Government should make it clear that we believe it right to secure the conclusion of Report and Third Reading of the Bill at this sitting. Hon. Members who have been in fairly constant attendance are, as it were, in the swing of the Bill and many of the arguments are closely knit together, and it would be a waste of effort not to get as far as Third Reading tonight. I had the view that there would be advantages in taking the Order at the same time because the subjects are so closely related, but I recognise that it would not be desirable to go ahead with it if there is a considerable section of the House which takes a contrary view.
The right hon. Gentleman and I are therefore in agreement as to how far we should get, and I hope that, with due regard for proper discussion, we may all be able to work together to expedite the achievement of that target.
§ Mr. Macleod
I cannot in all honesty promise the First Secretary to work with him on the Bill because, as he knows, we loath the Bill. That must be made clear between the two sides of the House. But the First Secretary responded to my suggestion, and I am sure that he has given a sensible answer. It would be madness to embark on the Order. I understand the need that he feels to get the Bill. He has met me fairly on the points that have been made, and, in the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.