§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
I beg to move Amendment No. 41, in page 8, line 16, to leave out from 'the' to the end of line 19 and to insert '31st December 1967'.
This is an attempt to limit the effects of the Bill, which my hon. Friends and I have regarded, from the time it was conceived, as not merely discriminatory and anti-trade union in character but, most importantly, as utterly irrelevant to a solution of our basic economic 693 problem. Regrettably, our efforts to persuade the Government of the folly of their ways have so far been unavailing. Despite the persistent and eloquent pleading of my hon. Friends, the Government have persisted in their folly, and this, the second Prices and Incomes Bill, apart from being a watered down version of Prices and Incomes Bill No. 1, is to us confirmation that the Government have no real intention of getting out of the field of industrial negotiation, but instead, in spite of the sobering experience of the first year's effects of this pernicious, class-conscious legislation, hanker after a well disciplined trade union movement grateful for whatever crumbs may fall from the employers' table.
Granted the undeniable wisdom of those observations, the fact remains that the Government remain apparently unpersuaded. Therefore, very much as a second-best, my hon. Friends and I, in a final desperate attempt to minimise the danger written into every line of this short-sighted and disastrous Measure, seek by this Amendment at least to limit in time the application of part of the Act. We believe that restricting the duration of the Act in the way the Amendment suggests will give just enough time to persuade millions of workers throughout the country who had the impression, no doubt erroneously, that this was a Measure only a Tory Government would propose, was quite wrong. Indeed, it might even persuade them that Labour is on their side, though this is an idea rather hard to swallow these days in certain trade union circles.
In the belief that half a loaf is better than none in this instance, I beg to move.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The Amendment has been so drafted as to do partly less and partly more than my hon. Friend wanted. If he looks at the exact alteration in the wording which it would make, he will notice that, as the Bill stands, the Sections referred to come to an end on 11th August, 1968, or on any earlier date on which Part II of the Act or the relevant provisions of it cease to be in force. That means that it would be possible to bring the Sections in question to an end at any time by the Government deciding to revoke the Order, which I trust that the House will make before long, to bring Part II into force.
694 Under the Amendment, it would be impossible in any circumstances to bring these Sections to an end before 31st December, whereas under the Bill it would at least be possible to do so. I cannot think that my hon. Friend intended that result.
On the other hand, from his point of view the Amendment does too little. If he wants to impose a time limit, the only sensible thing to do would be to make the relevant date, say, 12th or 31st August. To make it 31st December means that one is saddled with all the labour that we have been through of passing the Bill, and possible administrative difficulties thereafter, for a period of time which, from the point of view of those of us who believe in the Bill, would be too little for it to be of much use and, from the point of view of those who dislike the Bill, would be large enough to cause irritation.
I am bound to say that my hon. Friend has fallen between two if not three stools in the Amendment, and I ask him to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I should like to spring to the defence of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr), and, if he feels unable to exercise his feet in the Division Lobby, we shall be happy to do it for him.
Of course, I understand the purpose of his Amendment, and I suspect that the First Secretary does, too. He dislikes the Bill and, partly for the same reason and partly for different reasons, so do we. Having been defeated, naturally, because of the composition of the House, not only on Second Reading but on the Amendments as we have toiled through the night, one keeps trying at least to minimise the damage which can be done.
Sections 1 to 3 of the Bill follow on 12th August, 1967, and Amendment No. 41 brings Sections 1 to 3 to an end on 31st December, 1967, including any extra orders, I take it. The First Secretary said, first of all, that that does too much because it removes the possibility of action being taken to bring the Bill to an end at an earlier date. That is possible, but it is so wildly unlikely that I do not think that we need spend time considering anything so ridiculous.
I pass to his second argument, which is that it does too little, which is an 695 odd point of view to put forward, because the hon. Gentleman might have suggested 14th or 15th August, instead of 31st December. That is quite true, as far as it goes. I suggested on an earlier Amendment—and the next Amendment to which we come has some echoes of this—that we might bring the Bill to an end on 11th August, 1968. I should prefer to cut its throat tonight, but one must put something on the Order Paper to act as a peg on which to hang our arguments to say that it should not go on as disastrously long as the Government intend.
I think that the First Secretary is wrong and that the hon. Member for Feltham is right on this. It is true that the 31st December is an arbitrary date, but it is as good as any other, and a darned sight better than the one which will be in operation, if there is such a date, under the Bill. I would therefore advise this side of the House that this is an Amendment, a half loaf Amendment it is true, but a good one for all that, which is worthy of our support.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I would like to test the sincerity of the First Secretary's first argument. He objected to the Amendment on the basis that it would inhibit the making of an Order putting Part II out of operation before the 31st December. Legally this is no doubt right, but can the right hon. Gentleman say that there is the wildest chance of the Government deciding to take that step? Is there the slightest possibility of that? What is the right hon. Gentleman contemplating if he is thinking of this?
There seem to be only two possibilities. First, that contrary to all the facts he is expecting a miraculous recovery of the
|Division No. 451.]||AYES||[5.58 a.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Chapman, Donald||Ensor, David|
|Archer, Peter||Coe, Denis||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Vardley)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Concannon, J. D.||Faulds, Andrew|
|Ashley, Jack||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Ford, Ben|
|Barnett, Joel||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Forrester, John|
|Bence, Cyril||Dalyell, Tam||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Gardner, Tony|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Ginsburg, David|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Boston, Terence||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Boyden, James||Delargy, Hugh||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dewar, Donald||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Brown, Hugh W. (G'gow, Provan)||Dobson, Ray||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dunnett, Jack||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Cant, R. B.||Eadie, Alex||Hamling William|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hannan, William|
§ economy this autumn. Is he really expecting that, when he knows that everybody who has studied these matters knows how serious the situation is going to be? The only alternative is that he knows the situation will be so bad that he will revoke this because he will be replacing it with the sterner legislation at which the Lord President of the Council hinted the other day. This is no doubt the more probable of the two possibilities.
§ The right hon. Gentleman cannot be allowed to get away with using the argument that acceptance of the Amendment would prevent a revocation Order, unless he is prepared to say that there is at least a bare possibility of it, and that at this moment the Government contemplate the possibility of that, and they would really want to do this. Otherwise, it is a bogus argument, which I imagine his hon. Friends against whom it was used will find a little irritating, and something of an insult to their intelligence.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
If I may reply with the leave of the House, I do not think so. I think it wildly unlikely that the Order which we shall ask the House to agree to shortly to bring Part II into operation will be revoked before the 31st December. The only point I was making was that if I were to put down an Amendment, the purpose of which was to indicate that I wanted the Bill to have as short a life as possible, I would not word it in such a way that it would preclude even a bare possibility of it ending earlier than the 31st December. That is all.
§ Question put, That the words "11th August 1968" stand part of the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 99.
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Maclennan, Robert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hazell, Bert||Molloy, William||Small, William|
|Hilton, W. S.||Moonman, Eric||Snow, Julian|
|Hooley, Frank||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Howie, W.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Hucfield, L.||Moyle, Roland||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hunter, Adam||Ogden, Eric||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||O'Malley, Brian||Tinn, James|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Oram, Albert E.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Oswald, Thomas||Varley, Eric G.|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Palmer, Arthur||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Whitaker, Ben|
|Ledger, Ron||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Whitlock, William|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Price, William (Rugby)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rankin, John||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Luard, Evan||Reet, Merlyn||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Lyon, Alexander, W. (York)||Reynolds, G. W.||Winnick, David|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Richard, Ivor||Yates, Victor|
|McBride, Neil||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)||Sheldon, Robert||Mr. Alan Fitch.|
|Awdry, Daniel||Fortescue, Tim||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Foster, Sir John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gibson-Watt, David||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Batsford, Brian||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Monro, Hector|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Glover, Sir Douglas||More, Jaseper|
|Biffen, John||Goodhart, Philip||Neave, Airey|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grant-Ferris, R.||Nott, John|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gresham Cooke R.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Body, Richard||Grieve, Percy||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Percival, Ian|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pym, Francis|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hastings, Stephen||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Busk, Antony (Colchester)||Higgins, Terence L.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Campbell, Gordon||Holland, Philip||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hornby, Richard||Royle, Anthony|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Howel, David (Guildford)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hunt, John||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cordle, John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Temple, John M.|
|Crouch, David||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Wall, Patrick|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lubbock, Eric||Webster, David|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Eden, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||McMaster, Stanley||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Emery, Peter||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maddan, Martin|
|Farr, John||Marten, Neil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Fletcher-cooke, Charles||Maude, Angus||Mr. Anthony Grant and|
|Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
§ 6.7 a.m.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
At this stage, it is, perhaps, fortunate in the circumstances that we are required to confine our arguments to what is in the Bill and not discuss the general range of economic conditions in which the Bill is placed. The Bill is concerned with the use of legal powers in the prices and incomes policy, and it is for that reason unwelcome to a certain number of hon. Members. In one of our debates yester- 698 day, I stated what I believe to be the goal which we should have in mind in regard to prices and incomes policy, that is, something which is voluntary but which is not what is popularly called a free-for-all—in other words, acceptance by trade unions, manufacturers and suppliers of the proposition that it is in the general interest that people do not approach every single operation of wage or price fixing with an exclusive concern for what they think will be immediately solely to their advantage.
699 I advance that principle on the ground that, if people do behave in that manner, they do not in the end serve their own interests best. I believe that that principle embodies the real object of our policy, that we want not what is popularly called a free-for-all but a voluntary acceptance of something wiser, shrewder and more public spirited than that.
We are then faced with the question: Is it right in any circumstances whatever for a limited period in an emergency for the Government to have a part in the form of statutory powers? I think it is common agreement that if they have such a part it should be for a limited period, and it should be only if it can be justified by emergency. What is in dispute, I think, is whether in the present circumstances it is right to have the degree of statutory power that is stated in the Bill. That is the main issue on Third Reading.
The Government took the view that this amount of statutory power was right for the following reason. Before July, 1966, the nation was endeavouring to work what I regarded as the best solution, something that was voluntary but not a free-for-all. Last July under the pressure of what I think everyone agreed was emergency we took considerable statutory powers in Part IV. Part IV was activated last October, and that activation was done with the agreement of the trade union movement.
I well remember in the debate on this matter at the Labour Party Conference two remarks made by trade unionists which illustrated very clearly the opposing points of view. There was the remark made by Mr. Sydney Greene speaking for a group of workers who have been far from well paid. He said that he supported what the Government proposed to dobecause my members are sick and tired of having to run and run and always remaining in the same place.He felt that unless there was some concerted policy which would prevent prices racing away the workers whom he represented were in a position where they could not win. That was one point of view.
The other point of view was expressed by a trade union leader who said, quite simply:I can look after myself.
§ Mr. Orme
My right hon. Friend must not repeat a complete untruth. Mr. Jenkins was replying to a retort from the floor. He was not talking about looking after himself in selfish terms of trade union leadership. He was talking about looking after himself in relation to the platform, not in relation to the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend is not entitled to say that what I said was untrue. Many of us were there and heard those words used.
§ Mr. Michael Foot rose—
§ Mr. Foot
Everyone who studies the matter will recognise—indeed it was stated quite clearly by Mr. Clive Jenkins afterwards—that what he was referring to was the attempt by the chairman to deal with interrupters. He said:I can look after myself.He was referring solely to the fact that he did not need assistance in dealing with interruptions. That was made absolutely plain thereafter. It is quite improper for my right hon. Friend to make this allegation, and I hope he will withdraw it.
§ Mr. Stewart
It was not accepted by the audience at the time who heard the 701 words. Perhaps I might draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to something else. Earlier today he was arguing that trade union leaders representing the interests of higher paid workers were bound by the nature of their job to press for the best bargain they could. I ask my hon. Friend to consider this a little more than when he said it.
If it is to be taken as a general rule that a trade union leader, on finding at any point that the union which he leads is in a strong bargaining position, may decide to exploit that to the full, whatever effect it may have on the general economic situation, then I do not believe that that is the right thing to do. Indeed, I do not believe it to be in the long-term interest of even the members whom he is hoping to serve, and that is the point I am making. If I did an injustice to Mr. Clive Jenkins, I am sorry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Smear"]— but I am bound to say that if words like "smear" are to be thrown about, those who take the opposite view to that of the Government are not particularly nice in their choice of words. People must not be as thin skinned as this when they are being outspoken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I have got used to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not mind what they say.
The point at issue is an extremely important one. If every group in society were to say, "We are in a strong bargaining position. It is not only our right, but duty, to exploit it to the full," the result would be disastrous for us all. That is why I repeat that we must work for a policy which is voluntary and public spirited. This problem then arises: does one, at any time, need a degree of statutory power. And the issue is whether, at this juncture, the amount of statutory power in the Bill is right.
The Government hold their present view because, after having had a period of seeking to achieve a really voluntary system, based on the Statement of Intent, we then had the emergency situation of July and, in consequences, the exceptional powers of Part IV; and the activation of Part IV at the time as I have said received the assent of the trade union movement. In deciding, since then, to move away from Part IV and again towards a fully voluntary system, one 702 should consider whether it would have been wise or prudent, in the present difficult situation—and the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) drew attention to how difficult it can be—to make that change completely and in one step. I do not believe that would have been the prudent thing to do.
That, and nothing else, is really the point at issue. I understand the strong feelings that come from very different quarters; those who have a legal background feeling concerned about the attitude towards contracts, those with a trade union background feeling concerned about penal provisions and all of us, as citizens of a free country, always wanting carefully to scrutinise any assumption of powers by the Government. But while we may feel strongly on this issue, we should note the measure of agreement that exists; the almost universal—but not 100 per cent.—agreement that we want a policy that is voluntary, and not a free-for-all. I think that there would be fairly wide agreement that there can be circumstances in which some degree of legal powers can, for a time, be justified.
That leaves us with this point in dispute: is the amount of legal power in the Bill, for the time stated in the Measure, justified at the present time? Having stated the issue, it would be going beyond Third Reading if I tried to argue the economic arguments to and fro—[Interruption.]—the argument which people want to weigh up in order to answer that question. However, I state the question so that it should be clear to the House what is here at issue.
My hon. Friends who disagree with the Government should see the issue for what it is. The charge that the Government are permanently wedded to the principle of legal powers has no foundation. After the time that we have spent on the Bill, no-one can seriously suspect the Government of wanting to make this an annual exercise. Therefore, I hope that hon. Members, whatever their feelings on the Bill, will realise that the Government have made the right decision on legal powers. None the less, not only the Government but the nation are engaged in trying to establish a voluntary policy towards prices and incomes as against letting things slide or work themselves 703 out—but I would stress a voluntary policy, without legal compulsions.
It was inevitable that, in this attempt, which the nation must continue, there were bound to be some false starts and differences of opinion as to whether each part was being properly handled, but I hope that those differences will not blind the nation to the enormous importance of trying to work out the principles of a just, permanent and voluntary policy for prices, productivity and incomes.
§ 6.23 a.m.
§ Mr. Higgins
I oppose the Third Reading, and do not doubt that I will carry my right hon. and hon. Friends with me. The First Secretary has just told us what he believes a prices and incomes policy should be, and he raised the crucial question of whether this degree of statutory power is needed at present. Our clear contention is that it is not. It is not what he said that drives one to this conclusion, and still less is it the White Paper which is now the Third Schedule to the Bill, on the prices and incomes policy after 30th June, which contains a clear contradiction between the second paragraph and the sixth.
The second says that the measures of last July… have eliminated the excess pressure of demand, have freed resources for export production and other essential purposes, and have slowed down the rise in prices and incomes.The sixth says:More immediately the aim must be to avoid any widespread and unjustifiable increases in prices due to pressures which may have been building up during the periods of standstill and severe restraint.Unless we know which of those statements the Government believe, we cannot judge on their basis whether the Bill is necessary. We do not believe that it is, because the voluntary policy on which it is based is false.
We must consider in this context the statements on television last night—when we were saying that he should have been in the House—by the Leader of the House. In reply to the interviewer, he said:Well, I'm not concerned with what the Labour Party said but what I said. That is what really matters; and what I said was 'now look'—I was talking to my own comrades in the party—I said 'Now look: if we can make the wages policy work on a volun- 704 tary basis, good, but if we cannot make it work, then we're back where we were before, with the one thing we are fighting to avoid, which is unemployment'.Unemployment does not follow from that. That means unemployment the Government are deliberately going to create. It seems that the Leader of the House has jumped from the frying pan into the fire in arguing for going back to Part IV or going back to mass unemployment.
We cannot judge the Bill unless we are clear on the Government's attitude to this essential question. It is perfectly clear that they are going to continue time and time again to renew the statutory powers under the Bill.
In the two-year period from July last year to July next year the net effect of the policy will probably be zero and any restraint exercised will be the result of the July measures and not the prices and incomes policy incorporated in the Bill. Yet the cost of the Bill and the policy is very heavy.
There has been the complete disorganisation of the Government's programme in the House. That is something with which we could bear. In addition, as the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) said, agreements for the improvement of efficiency and productivity have been positively delayed and inhibited by the Bill.
There has been the sad toll in good industrial relations resulting from the Bill and the measures introduced to bring the full weight of the criminal law upon trade unions which do not comply with the Government's wishes. The debate on this was closured earlier. What we are getting, if that Clause needs to be in the Bill, is not free-for-all but free-for-gaol. There is the question of retrospection, which is not an unfortunate lapse but an intrinsic part of the Government's policy. The Government are putting more and more retrospection into legislation as a habit.
There is the question of the abandonment of contracts. The contrast between the speech of the Leader of the Opposition at the weekend and the Government's view is that he said that contracts should be binding. The Bill strikes at the basis of contracts and suggests that they are not important and can be 705 brushed aside. None of the cost is surprising in the context of a policy which is based on intimidation and discrimination rather than any appraisal of the situation.
I want to turn from the pragmatic approach which we had from the First Secretary last year to the metaphysics of the First Secretary this year. He has asked us to distinguish between a fully voluntary policy and a voluntary policy.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I made clear last night and again today that I made no distinction between these two terms.
§ Mr. Higgins
I am glad to know that there is no distinction between fully voluntary policy and voluntary policy. If the First Secretary looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that he changed his ground and drew a distinction.
There are four classifications of the policy. There is a fully compulsory policy which would involve the direction of labour and a centrally controlled economy. Some hon. Members seemed to be verging near this last night. There is a compulsory policy which is Part IV. There is a voluntary policy which would appear to be Part II. Finally, there is a fully voluntary policy where everything goes on all right and everyone is a volunteer. Under the terms of the Bill it is difficult for employers and trade unions or anyone else to know precisely what they are volunteering for. Anyone who took part in the debate with the Attorney-General must be very uncertain about what he is volunteering for.
The essential point is that from beginning to end the right hon. Gentleman has not told us how his voluntary policy or fully voluntary policy towards which he is moving is distinguished from what he called a free for all. It boils down to what has been described as ear stroking. He: says, "We shall have no compulsory powers. We shall just ask eveyone to co-operate". But no one will do so unless he has a guarantee that everyone else will co-operate. Therefore, if we accept the right hon. Gntleman's argument, I do not see how we can get away from an element of compulsion either in terms of Part II or in terms of the Bill. We shall see a repetition of the kind of Bill that we are discussing—
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The hon. Member argues that what I call a voluntary policy 706 will not work and will be indistinguishable from a free-for-all. Does he take the view that what the T.U.C. are trying to do is useless and doomed to failure?
§ Mr. Higgins
It is not for me to explain at this stage what the right hon. Gentleman means by a voluntary policy. Time and again he has failed to explain it, and he has had enough opportunities in the last two days to tell us how he distinguishes his voluntary policy from a free-for-all. It may be that if he could implicate the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. in his policy he could reduce us to the Corporate State which we had in certain countries in Europe before the war and have a voluntary policy of that kind. Certainly after the Prime Minister's assurance on television, which has become notorious, it is clear that we are likely to find again and again a Bill of this kind or Part II being repeated over and over again and compulsory powers continuing in existence.
We are absolutely right to oppose the Bill because Government policy has not been universal; it is becoming more and more of a farce to suggest that the kind of discrimination which has taken place under the Bill has been universal. That has not been the case in respect of those cases which went to the courts and were then over-ruled or in respect of the vast majority of non-union labour, because the Bill discriminates against those whom my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) called identifiable or noticeable. It is those it discriminates against.
It seems to us that the policy which the Government say will achieve a social justice is clearly destined to fail because the lowest-paid workers will not gain in the long run from a scheme of this kind which seeks to alter the differentials in such a way that economic efficiency is necessarily jeopardised. There is a great deal of poverty among the lowest-paid workers and the way to tackle that is through the social services. We need a much wider approach to the problem.
We feel that the Bill is utterly reprehensible. We are being asked to suffer for a benefit which has not been clearly demonstrated and I hope that the House will reject the Bill on Third Reading.
§ 6.35 a.m.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I would not have detained the House for any length of time at 707 this hour except for the fact that, in some of the passages of my right hon. Friend's speech, he said some things which should not go without reply. There was almost a Freudian revelation in his speech. His slip started showing when he revealed the extent to which he hinges the action proposed to take under this Bill and hinges his resistance to the opposition to it round the person of one individual trade union leader whom he spent two-thirds of his speech attacking.
I do not refer here to his quotation of a piece out of context because my right hon. Friend withdrew that under some pressure—which is more than his right hon. Friend who was the author of it has had the decency to do. But my right hon. Friend did err in making his extreme, personalised attack on the opposition to the Bill.
§ Mr. Mikardo
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) has not been with us, but he shouts "rubbish."
§ Mr. Mikardo
No. I will give way to any hon. Member who has been here for these debates. I have been here for two nights, barring one hour. I will give way with pleasure to anyone who has taken an interest in the Bill.
The fact is that my right hon. Friend is naturally a bit sensitive, because the gentleman to whom he referred has proved that the Government did not know the import of their own Act. There was a difference of view about what was the import of that Measure. Some people said that it meant one thing; the Government said that it meant another. No one wants to be proved wrong.
So I understand my right hon. Friend being sensitive about this matter. I have great respect for him. I should be the last to want to say anything that would hurt him and I say in all friendliness that he will carry more conviction with the trade union movement if he understands that the opposition to his policy throughout the movement is more widespread 708 than one individual or one union. It is widespread in terms both of the numbers of people involved and of the strength of their feelings.
My right hon. Friend should not try to elevate, if that is the right word, Mr. Clive Jenkins into the bogy of the single opposition to the Bill. Mr. Jenkins is the officer of a union. He has to do what his union tells him. [Laughter.] I do not know why my hon. Friend laughs. I happen to have been a member of the National Executive of that union for more than 20 years. I do not know of any other union with a more democratic constitution. The National Executive has been unanimous in its opposition to the Bill.
Moreover, it has submitted its views every year to the union's delegate conference, which has endorsed them by overwhelming majorities. To say, therefore, and to snigger about it, that this is the activity of one man is doing a disservice and is denigrating a very large body of people who give a lot of their leisure time to helping one of our unions.
I remind my right hon. Friend that the activities of A.S.S.E.T. in this respect have been carried out continuously with the co-operation of four other unions—to the scientific workers, D.A.T.A., the Society of Technical Civil Servants and the Cine and Television Technicians' Union. These five unions have worked together throughout. This must not be dismissed as a one-man operation.
If my right hon. Friend thinks that he can isolate one man in this way, he should bear in mind that the union which has spearheaded the opposition to his policy is, as a result, the fastest growing union in the country. When, largely as a result of disillusionment with the Government's prices and incomes policy, most unions are having difficulty holding their membership and are not holding their contribution income by a long chalk, the union which has spearheaded the opposition is growing faster than any other.
I do not say that in order to be vainglorious about it, but in order to emphasise what I have already said, that it is nonsense and self-defeating for my right hon. Friend to try to present a picture of a trade union movement wholly in support of him, except for one man 709 who has to be painted as the villain of the piece. My right hon. Friend does himself and his Government no service by doing that sort of thing.
As I am on my feet, I want now to mike one or two observations about the parts of the Bill which concern the punitive measures against trade unionists and to make one or two observations which I would have made earlier in the night if I had not fallen foul of the moving of the Closure. I tried to make it clear in an intervention, since I could not get in a speech, that the dangerous part about these provisions was that they were a sort of hydrogen bomb, a sort of deterrent which could not possibly be used because it was so powerful, almost an ex act parallel situation with that of the hydrogen bomb.
If the Government ever used these powers, if, as I suggested earlier, one shop steward were to be proceeded against, were to refuse to pay his fine and so be put into prison, then the whole of the policy would be blown sky high. Therefore, the weapon which the Government have given themselves by this legislation is a weapon which, almost by definition, they dare not use.
My right hon. Friend might well ask me why in that case I am worried. We are all worried about nations having hydrogen bombs, even if we feel that they are too powerful to be used. The trouble is that we do not know what sort of Red Guards may get hold of one of them and we do not know how they might get to be used almost by accident. That is why some of us are worried about these punitive powers.
My right hon. Friend keeps assuring us, and did so again in an intervention only a few moments ago, that there is absolutely no intention whatever of making this sort of legislation permanent. Some anxieties have been expressed on that score and some anxieties about it are still felt not only in one quarter. Because of these many anxieties, my right hon. Friend keeps on having to utter these assurances.
There are some who say, but I am not one of them, that the speech of the Lord President of the Council made a justifiable contribution to those anxieties. I wish that my right hon. Friend would get together with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lan- 710 caster in order to agree about whether this legislation is temporary or permanent. I have in my hand the journal of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the issue of June, 1967, which contains an article headed:Straight talk from Brother LeeA condensed report of his Speech to National Committee.I quote three paragraphs from this article which are as follows:On this count he gave a warning. 'Without it (prices and incomes policy) we can never achieve the economic conditions in which we can give as much as we would like to the Social Services', he said. As an indication of future demands of the economy he indicated that the prices and incomes policy was here to stay.'The need for the prices and incomes policy … is as great in times of economic solvency as when we are in difficulty ' he said.'One of its effects will be to assist in the redistribution of incomes, which free collective bargaining can never do, he continued'.I do not want to overstate it, but there seems to be some marginal inconsistency between what the First Secretary has been saying at intervals during two nights and the statement that prices and incomes policy is here to stay. There seems to be an inconsistency between the First Secretary's argument that this is a temporary measure to deal with economic crises and insolvency, and the observations of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that the need for the prices and incomes policy:…is as great in times of economic solvency as when we are in difficulty.I am sure that both my right hon. Friends will feel some sympathy for the ordinary chaps on the back benches who try very hard to reconcile these conflicting statements, and do not always succeed in doing so.
As is well known, I think that this is a bad Bill. It is irrelevant to the solution of the nation's economic difficulties. While a good prices and incomes policy would be a contribution to that solution, this is not a good policy, and I hope that we shall see the back of this legislation as quickly as possible.
§ 6.47 a.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not often find myself in any measure of agreement with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), but what he said in his closing sentences expresses the view of many hon. Members on this side 711 of the House. It is certainly clear from the conduct of this matter that the Government have learned nothing, and, unlike the Bourbons, forgotten a lot. This Bill, the cornerstone of the Government's economic policy, has been taken on Report through two long nights, at the worst possible time for considering detailed and complex legislation and getting it right. We are exposed to this and the Government will be exposed to the consequences of this, for no other reason than the arrogant incompetence of the Leader of the House.
The Government did exactly the same last year with the 1966 Act. It was produced at a very late stage, with every mark of hurry and not subject to the proper process of legislation in this House at a reasonable hour of the day, when it could be examined. The Government paid the price. The hon. Member for Poplar reminded the House that the right hon. Gentleman the First Secretary for nearly a year was purporting to exercise powers which the Court of Appeal found that he did not have, and when this was found out, he had to face the humiliation of coming to the Box and withdrawing no fewer than four of these Orders, for which he had no authority.
We shall have the same process again, because the same causes produce the same results. This is, equally, a horrid, botched-up Bill. It is a Bill full of retrospection, full of awkward, clumsy attempts to tie up with the previous Act. It contains one subsection 5(3), which the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the night admitted did not completely coincide with the policy set out in the White Paper which it was supposed to bring into effect. It was too difficult for the right hon. Gentleman—as near as he could get.
Legislation of this sort, as we saw with the previous Act, can produce the greatest trouble on any subject. When one has legislation of this sort, and in so sensitive an area as our national life as industrial relations, it is an absolutely simple recipe for trouble.
A few moments ago the right hon. Gentleman said that he really wanted a voluntary system. It was this Government, last year, which introduced compulsion for the first time. This Measure 712 carries on a measure of compulsion; to some extent in a different form, but still compulsion. It is a curious way to go towards the voluntary system which the right hon. Gentleman, hand on heart, says that he wants when he brings forward legislation to continue compulsion. It is rather like the epic journey of the poet:The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.He is going in the opposite direction with all this apparatus of retrospection and complicated provisions, which as the hon. Member for Poplar rightly said can be invoked against trade unions and trade union leaders who are only doing their duty as they see it—the introduction into this sensitive sphere of compulsion backed by criminal penalties.
Of course the right hon. Gentleman said that it will be temporary, but compulsion in these matters, once introduced, is very difficult to eliminate. I shall not weary the House at this hour by repeating the hints, not only of the Lord President of the Council, but of the Minister speaking in another place, that this was not the end of the road of compulsion. We cannot help remembering that the right hon. Gentleman last year was giving the impression that this was only temporary; this was just for a year and then all would be well.
Here again a badly drafted Bill, a badly constructed Bill is continuing compulsion. I venture to prophesy that it will be continued as long as this Government last. I do not believe that with their liking for compulsion and statutory powers of this sort they will give it up so long as they are in charge of our affairs. They will not want for ample excuse in the disturbed and distressed condition of our economy, which will equally persist so long as they are in office.
So we take leave of this Bill knowing that it will do little good and much harm, knowing that it is a Bill which in their hearts only the Government want, knowing that not only will it not serve the country but that it is a dangerous illusion to think that it is a substitute for sound economic policy.
§ 6.53 a.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
There can be little doubt that this 713 Measure has caused a degree of anguish and has upset many supporters of Her Majesty's Government. That is nothing to be ashamed of. The Government are supported by a very sensitive and undoubtedly the greatest democratic organisation in the world. It is something which we should be proud of because what goes on in this House is talked at out, discussed and examined throughout t the entire structure of the Labour Movement.
Therefore when a Measure of this sort, which is very close to the founder part of our movement, the trade union movement, is passed, it is bound to cause feelings of great heart searching, grief and apprehension and to go even further —no doubt to the delight of the Opposition party—and cause grave splits within the British Labour movement. Naturally, the Opposition have had a very enjoyable time. They have had a hilarious evening, but behind this Measure there is indeed a very serious question. I hope to demonstrate in a few moments the grave responsibilities which the Opposition have because of their contribution over the years to creating a situation which called for some form of action, and if this is not precisely the right action, some action had to be taken. I say this in the interests of democratic organisations, and it will wipe the supercilious smiles off some of the faces opposite, because it is an extraordinarily serious issue. The basic argument is about the future economic structure of our nation—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope the hon. Member is not going back, as I think it is the point he was about to make, to the 13 years of a previous Government.
§ Mr. Molloy
I was not really thinking of going back to the 13 dreadful years. What I was trying to point out was, that there is a great problem which is afflicting not only our country but, indeed, all Western democracies. Perhaps the problem was best outlined in a speech which the late Aneurin Bevan made in this House on 3rd November, 1959. What he said was this:There is one important problem facing representative Parliamentary government in the whole of the world where it exists. It is being asked to solve a problem which so far it has failed to solve: that is, how to reconcile Parliamentary popularity with sound economic planning. So far, nobody on either 714 side of this House has succeeded and it is a problem which has to be solved if we are to meet the challenge that comes to us from other parts of the world and if we are to grout and to buttress the institutions of Parliamentary government in the affections of the population. … I would describe the central problem falling upon representative government in the Western world as how to persuade the people to forgo immediate satisfactions in order to build up the economic resources of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 862.]Now it was this problem which the present Government at least had the guts to face. I have a great deal of sympathy with many of the criticisms which have been made through the early hours of today by many of my hon. Friends, and perhaps in other circumstances I might have been with them totally and completely, but let me say this, that despite all the errors which this Government may have made, or may make in the future, I would much prefer at any time men of their quality and calibre, belonging to the movement they do, to hon. Members opposite in dealing—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I cannot comment on the merits of the observations of the hon. Member, but they are out of order on Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Molloy
During the morning hon. Members opposite have had great fun in trying to exploit the embarrassment of the Government Nobody blames them for that; it is part of their job; but what, I am bound to say, I found particularly distasteful was their suddenly revealing their new found sympathy for British trade unionism. Indeed, at one time they seemed annoyed that there might not be the possibility of any more strikes—which they could so successfully exploit, as they have done so often in the past. Whenever there has been an industrial collision in this country members of the Tory Party have never failed to couple the Labour Party with the trade unions.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are on Third Reading of the Bill. On the Third Reading of a Bill hon. Members may discuss only what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Molloy
In trying to relate my remarks to the Bill, I am pointing out that, when we are discussing an issue of this importance, the people of this country expect an honest argument. We 715 have not had that from hon. Gentlemen opposite.
With the achievement of a decent economic recovery, we shall be able to put this legislation behind us, so that our trade union movement can play its proper rùle. I hope that that time will not be too long in coming, though that again will irritate and annoy hon. Gentlemen opposite. When it does, this legislation will pass away, having done its job, and then the true function of British trade unionism can be resuscitated.
§ 7.1 a.m.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) charged or, at any rate, averred—I do not know whether it was a charge or a congratulation—that we had had a hilarious evening and a lot of fun. I am not conscious of having had either—
§ Mr. Molloy rose—
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I know what the hon. Gentleman will say, and I accept his point. I was about to add that I was not conscious of having had either, at any rate until the last few minutes, and we must thank him for providing some hilarity and fun to lighten the somewhat sombre scene of the night and the discussion of this important and technical Bill.
§ Mr. Molloy
The right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that he correctly anticipated what I was thinking. He was wrong. I was thinking that the probability is that he was neither hilarious nor having an enjoyable time because he was probably not even conscious.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
In answer to that intervention, I can only say that it confirms my first judgment, which was that I ought not to give way to the hon. Gentleman.
I regret to say that it is about 15½ hours since I ventured to suggest that this method of conducting business, with all-night sittings, is not really good for the repute of this House in the context of the efficient and sensible running of our affairs. It is right to say that the Bill testifies to that. The Bill and its parent Act are both largely the result, parliamentarily speaking, of all-night dis- 716 cussion, and neither is any credit to the Statute Book.
The right hon. Gentleman prescribed the test of whether the Government had made a proper use of their legal powers by the content of the Bill. I accept the test. The answer is clearly that they have not in the content of this Bill satisfied that test and made a proper use of their legal powers. In saying that, I do not suggest that there is not scope for government in this context, and that there is not perhaps scope for statutory provision. I am conscious that there are lower-paid workers—for example, people doing socially useful but not directly productive work—whom the uninhibited operation of collective bargaining may leave further behind in the incomes race than social conscience ought to accept. I believe that to be true. Therefore, it is an over-simplification to say that all these great matters can be resolved simply by the unfettered mechanism of the market or by uninhibited collective bargaining by the great trades unions with the great employers' organisations. To say that there is a field, or may be a field, for Government activity or statutory provision is certainly not to say that this is it.
At the beginning of the Labour Government's term of office in 1964 I ventured to say that one of their prime faults was following a false syllogism—something must be done, this is something, therefore let us do it. They are still following that false syllogism after nearly three years, and this Bill is another very good example of it.
The Bill does everything, and is everything, which an Act of Parliament should not do and be. Whereas it should be clearly drafted, it is obscurely drafted. Whereas it should be clearly enforceable in its provisions, it is only doubtfully enforceable in its provisions. Whereas it should be equitable, it is in many respects inequitable. Whereas it should adhere to the constitutional proprieties, it does violence to them in many respects, and the two respects in which it mainly does violence to them are those of retrospection and invasion of the sanctity of contract.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he sympathised with the concern of lawyers for these matters. I have served the law for a good many years, but it 717 is not only lawyers who are concerned about these matters. These are the fundamental principles on which our democratic community works, and to invade these principles, as has been done in the Bill, is to derogate from the democratic and traditional basis of our society.
During the discussions on Report we had instances of the retrospective provisions of the Bill. May I remind the House of what is said in the leading textbook which I quoted earlier in regard to retrospection:Every statute, it has been said, which takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, of imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect of transactions or considerations already past, must be presumed, out of respect to the legislature, to be intended not to have a retrospective operation."Out of respect to the legislature", and yet here the legislature is ceasing to respect its own tradition, because we are increasingly being invited to put these retrospective provisions into our Statutes.
The other matter is the invasion of the sanctity of contract. I cannot think that it is right, as a result of Government exhortation, to get people to breach their contracts, and then offer them a statutory defence. This principle is foreign to the traditional evolution of our law, and one out of which mischief may come.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. BoydCarpenter) rightly said that compulsion is liable to grow. It is, to use the modern idiom, a drug of addiction, and all these things which the Government are doing here, their compulsion, their retrospection, their invasion of sanctity of contract, are things which are likely to continue.
The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) said that there was an inconsistency between Government spokesmen on whether all this was intended to be temporary or permanent. The Rent Acts were intended to be temporary. Income Tax was intended to be temporary. There are few things more permanent than Measures which start out to be temporary, and they have the added disadvantage that, because they are thought to be temporary, they are less fundamentally thought out when they are originally put on the Statute Book.
All this, I respectfully submit, amounts to a very substantial indictment of the 718 Measure that we are asked to approve. I think that the House would be false to its tradition and its duty to the community if it were to do other than deny the passage of the Bill.
§ 7.10 a.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I have sat through the complete two nights and days of the debates on the Bill and also the whole of the Committee stage. In respect of no Bill which I have ever seen through the House has there been so much inflation of what was originally a narrow piece of legislation. It is an important Bill, and the discussion, rightly, has been probing. It seems to me that we have debated an issue on what was quite a small basis, arising from previous legislation, and have extended it so fine that by the time of this Third Reading debate the impression has been created in some people's minds that the Bill is the whole of the Government's prices and incomes policy, instead of being only part of it.
In our debates mention has been made of the rights of the workers or employees, and the traditions thereof. Strong representations have been made, on behalf of the manufacturers, about the way in which they shall operate, but there no strong voice is raised on behalf of the consumer. There is no consumer T.U.C. which has a voice in negotiations with the Government. The C.B.I. is there, but the consumers are not.
I respect the Government's attempt and accept that the Bill is not perfect. I have never seen a Bill that was perfect. But I believe that my right hon. Friend is endeavouring to do something which has never been done before, namely, to get some planning into our very mixed economy. I hope that as a result of that planning it will be less mixed, and that we shall move more towards a Socialist economy.
If we throw out the Measure we shall have nothing at all to put in its place. We are seeking to get the maximum amount of co-operation throughout the country in order to achieve a measure of justice and to improve standards of living, especially of the lower-paid worker. This can be done only by the intervention of bodies other than those engaged in bargaining on the question of wages or the prices to be charged for goods.
719 I welcome the Bill. I welcome the reassurance that my right hon. Friend has given, not once but hundreds of times, both in Committee and on Report, about the nature of the statutory powers which are to be retained. It has been a source of amazement to me, especially in Committee, to consider the persistence of the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins). Time and time again he has asked questions that seemed to me to receive very reasonable answers from my right hon. Friend and yet he has still said, "I am demanding an answer" If I have heard him say this once I have heard him say it hundreds of times.
My right hon. Friend has many failings, but he is not imprecise, nor is he woolly, in trying to answer questions put to him by opponents of the Bill, on whichever side of the House they may be. It has amazed me to hear the hon. Member for Worthing, and sometimes the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), accusing my right hon. Friend of not being precise in his answers, when my right hon. Friend has, in his usual logical and rational way, given the answers that the Opposition have demanded.
It has been a long session. We are now reaching the end. I apologise for delaying the House. I hope that as a result of the efforts we have made, in spite of the inconvenient times that we have had to sit, we shall succeed in getting the mass of the population behind us in trying to work out a rational policy which will provide more social justice and fairness, and will give more room for the economy to expand, not in a haphazard way but in the kind of way which will give the maximum benefit to our people.
§ 7.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Biffen
Like the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), I have lived with the Report stage of the Bill for the last 50 hours or more, and I lived with the Bill in Standing Committee too, so that I have almost had enough; but it is such a detestable Bill that I shall vote with enthusiasm against it when the Division is called in a few minutes.
The powers sought under Clauses 1 to 3 and in relation to the new Schedule now to be inserted in the parent Act are designed, among other things, to improve 720 the status, the pay, the relative income of lower-paid workers. On that basis, the Bill has been presented and, to some extent, sold to many reluctant hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. We do not know whether this will happen in fact, but we do know what is shown by the latest figures available in the Ministry of Labour's June 1967 statistics on incomes, prices, employment and production. Between June, 1966, and January, 1967, the differential between skilled manual workers and labourers in engineering widened. It did not narrow; it did exactly the opposite of what this policy is supposed to achieve. My first point, therefore, is that what sketchy evidence there is does not support the oft-made assertion that the policy is assisting lower-paid workers.
Considerable emphasis has been placed on the responsibility of the Government in making references to the National Board for Prices and Incomes, in cooperation with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. In furtherance of this, Ministers are concurring in one of the least prepossessing of their activities. This is not confined to Ministers; it applies to all politicians. I refer to the tendency to moralise, and particularly to moralise on what is presumed to be an acceptable code of commercial conduct.
This practice often proceeds from certain Governmental assumptions about, for instance, the exchange rate, about military deployment east of Suez, or about the level of internal public expenditure—all of which have certain consequences for the economy—which are not necessarily universally accepted. But there is assumed to be a universal morality which flows from these assumptions and decisions which ought to be accepted by anyone in commerce concerned with deciding a price or an income. In this connection, I read, and endorse, some observations by a distinguished trade unionist, Mr. Harry Nicholas, in an article he wrote on 17th June, 1966:No less unrealistic is the supposition that workers will be especially responsvie to what is held to be `the national interest' over wages issues. Once a sense of injustice has been generated—and in this situation there always are some material grounds for such a feeling —no loyalties are likely to prevail over it.I believe those to be not only profoundly wise and perceptive words but patriotic 721 words, too. When the indicated wishes of the Government are presumed to over-ride what individual choices and preferences are exercised within the framework of law, we move dangerously near a State which was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) as the corporate State. The provisions of this Bill, and of Clauses 1 10 3 in particular, conduce to that situation.
Thirdly, we are told that this legisla1 ion is needed to give the reserve powers for a limited period of time until we can have a system which will be operated by the T.U.C. Operated by the T.U.C. over what? Over wages? Over incomes? But does the C.B.I. operate over prices? Of course not. Nobody in his right mind wants to see manufacturers ganging up to do collective price fixing. We should be moving away from that. So where is the logic in this policy?
Let there be no mistake; the idea of the T.U.C. wage vetting committee is to be the great gimmick of the year. I can quote no higher authority than the Prime Minister in his speech at Greenford on 3rd March:Yesterday's acceptance by the Conference of Trade Union Executives of a new and permanent approach to a policy on incomes restraint is, I believe, of historic importance.He concluded:No one would underrate the greatness of this achievement or the formidable difficulties which its fulfilment will involve.Sure—when 40 per cent. of the workers of the country are not even organised in unions.
§ Mr. Biffen
The hon. Member is making my case better than I was doing.
The hon. Member for Willesden, West said that the First Secretary was always precise in his answers. All of us who have gone through this tog ether are genuinely appreciative of the way in which the First .Secretary has dealt with what has not been a particularly happy Bill. But there is this to consider. I understood the First Secretary to remark when he was making his Third Reading speech that before July, 1966, we had the best system of all. Are we to understand that the system to which he wishes to return is one whereby the T.L.C. has a vetting control, a volun- 722 tary system, over incomes? We do not know what the corresponding situation is for prices, but we will leave that on one side. Is that what the right hon. Gentleman is working for? Is that what his fully voluntary system is? Let it not be forgotten that before 1966 there were no long-stop arrangements. They came in in the prices and incomes legislation last year.
It would be of great interest not only to the House but to all those who are expected to operate the policy outside to know that it is the final objective of the Government—and presumably in the reasonably near future, because we do not want to go through this charade every year—to have a system where there is no long-stop, where the T.U.C. can be allowed to get on and do the job on its own account. Goodness knows what sanctions it will have against those unions which opt not to volunteer!
Finally, I do not believe that this is the end of the road in prices and incomes legislation. I do not believe for one moment that the economic outlook, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing said, is such that the Government will not be presented with a chance to rationalise their instincts for more intervention and more control. My guess is that it will be blamed upon a deteriorating balance of payments arising out of the crisis in the Middle East.
I should like to indulge in unashamed self-advertisement by quoting what I said in the Third Reading debate on the Prices and Incomes Bill last year. Speaking in the context of what would happen 12 months from then, I said:I can imagine that we shall be asked perhaps not to invoke Part IV, but to adjust the standstill periods in Part II."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th August, 1966; Vol. 733, c. 1806.]That is precisely what has happened. I do not claim any credit for that comment—that view was widely held, even on the benches opposite—and I am as confident today as I was a year ago. I am sure that prices and incomes legislation will still be with us 12 months from today.
§ 7.25 a.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I am glad of this opportunity to address the House, particularly since I am probably the first Ulsterman to do 723 so on the 12th of July. I rise to support my hon. Friends in opposing the Third Reading.
This is the latest of a long series of Measures we have had since the war designed fundamentally to correct the illness in our economy and the imbalance in our trade. I made several unsuccessful attempts to intervene while the First Secretary has been speaking to ask what he intends to do under this so-called voluntary policy. He made great play about the voluntary element being introduced, but when will the powers in the Bill come to an end?
I share the doubts which have been expressed by my hon. Friends. It is all very well to say that when these provisions cease to have effect—according to the First Secretary, in August of next year—it will be up to the trade unions and the S.B.I. voluntarily to arrive at an acceptable policy, but who will fix the norm? Will the Government no longer plan incomes and prices? If, on the other hand, the Government will continue to control and regulate prices and wages, the much talked of voluntary policy is meaningless.
Like the 1966 Act, the Bill is badly drafted. It is full of holes and anomalies. It will produce far more inequalities than it will cure. Only a week ago one of the main firms in my constituency, Harland and Wolff, was faced with a dispute which had arisen as a result of an Order made under the 1966 Act. Following Court of Appeal decisions, the Minister has revoked the Order, along with a number of others.
The Bill incorporates the theory that the Government know best. The hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt)
|Division No. 452.]||AYES||[7.33 a.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Cant, R. B.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Archer, Peter||Chapman, Donald||Ensor, David|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Coe, Denis||Faulds, Andrew|
|Ashley, Jack||Concannon, J. D.||Ford, Ben|
|Harriett, Joel||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Forrester, John|
|Bence, Cyril||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Freeson, Reginald|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dalyell, Tame||Gardner, Tony|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Ginsburg, David|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Boston, Terence||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Boyden, James||Delargy, Hugh||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dewar, Donald||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Dobson, Ray||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dunnett, Jack||Hamling, William|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoroditch & F'bury)||Eadie, Alex||Hannan, William|
§ wondered why my hon. Friends and I oppose the Bill and say we cannot understand it. He called it a vehicle of social reform and, in using that phrase, he answered his own question. If the Bill is a vehicle of social reform and is designed to correct the anomaly whereby the most powerful unions can, without such a Measure, get more than their share by forceful bargaining, it will not achieve its purpose because it is diagnosing the wrong illness. The Government, faced with a patient who is sick with fever, are exposing him to the cold wind. This legislation is more likely to kill than cure the ills about which the First Secretary spoke. Unions are able to bargain because labour is scarce. If unions can thus demand higher wages than equivalent workers and attract scarce labour, surely the solution is not prices and incomes control but the prevention of these monopolistic practices. We should not seek to regulate the economy by this ill-drafted Bill, which creates anomalies and precludes economic flexibility and productivity, but should increase investment and productivity and thus reduce unit costs. This restrictive policy will never do it.
§ My main criticism is not just of the Bill but of the First Secretary's protest that it is only temporary and will be followed by a voluntary policy. The burden of the debate has been that the Government intend to plan the economy from now on, and this is but one sign of their interference. It is this type of Socialist interference which will ruin the economy.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 130, Noes 96.
|Harper, Joseph||Maclennan, Robert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Molloy, William||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hattersley, Roy||Moonman, Erie||Small, William|
|Hazell, Bert||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Snow, Julian|
|Hilton, W. S.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hooley, Frank||Moyle, Roland||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Howie, W.||Ogden, Eric||Taverne, Dick|
|Huckfield, L.||O'Malley, Brian||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oram, Albert E.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hunter, Adam||Oswald, Thomas||Tinn, James|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Palmer, Arthur||Tuck, Raphael|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Varley, Eric G.|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pentland, Norman||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Jones.Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,s.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Price, William (Rugby)||Whitlock, William|
|Ledger, Ron||Rankin, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Reynolds, G. W.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Luard, Evan||Richard, Ivor||Winnick, David|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Robinson, W. 0. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Yates, Victor|
|Mabon. Dr. J. Dickson||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|McBride, Neil||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Sheldon, Robert||Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Glover, Sir Douglas||Monro, Hector|
|Batsford, Brian||Goodhart, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Grant, Anthony||More, Jasper|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Grant-Ferris, R.||Neave, Airey|
|Biffen, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Nott, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grieve, Percy||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Percival, Ian|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hastings, Stephen||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Higgins, Terence L.||Pym, Francis|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Holland, Philip||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hornby, Richard||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Campbell, Gordon||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hunt, John||Royle, Anthony|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cordle, John||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Costain, A. P.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Tapsell, Peter|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Temple, John M,|
|Crouch, David||Kitson, Timothy||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lubbock, Eric||Wall, Patrick|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Weather ill, Bernard|
|Hden, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Webster, David|
|Emery, Peter||McMaster, Stanley||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Farr, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Famham)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maddan, Martin||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Fortescue, Tim||Marten, Neil||Worsley, Marcus|
|Foster, Sir John||Maude, Angus|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.