HC Deb 01 April 1969 vol 781 cc237-46
Mr. Sandys

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to secure, in appropriate cases, a postponement of strike action for a limited period, in order to give time for conciliation. I read in a newspaper this morning that I was going to attack the Government. That is the very last thing I intend to do. I regard this as essentially a bipartisan proposal; and I feel sure that I can count on the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Whether we choose to call it a "conciliation pause" or a "cooling-off period", the fact is that both the Government and the Opposition are agreed that, in a major industrial dispute, there should be power to secure an interval for reflection and negotiation before strike action is taken.

The Labour and Conservative proposals on this point are not identical. But they closely resemble one and another and they have the same objective. Personally, I prefer the Conservative variant. However, in order to dispel any hesitation which hon. Members opposite may feel about supporting this Bill, I shall be happy to frame it on the lines of their own White Paper—"In Place of Strife".

I think most people would agree that, if the Government had had the power to insist on a conciliation pause, the dispute at Ford's might well have been settled by negotiation without a strike. In a speech in Lancashire a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister said that the recent strikes had provided further: cast-iron evidence that additional powers are needed. Referring specifically to the White Paper, the right hon. Gentleman said: I want it to be clearly understood that the Government mean business about these proposals. All that has happened in the last three weeks provides powerful support for the measures we shall be introducing in Parliament. I am sure the Prime Minister would be the first to recognise that purposeful speeches by themselves are not enough. They must be followed up by purposeful action.

When I asked the Leader of the House last Thursday whether legislation would be introduced this Session, he was not in a position to give me an answer. Instead he kindly invited me to talk to him privately about it, which I did. The right hon. Gentleman was very courteous, as he always is. But, after our talk, I was none the wiser about the Government's plans for legislation.

In a debate on 3rd March, the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity said that discussions: … will go on over many months and in many quarters before the philosophy of the White Paper can be finally crystallised into an Industrial Relations Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 58.] I have heard it suggested by uncharitable people that the Government are deliberately "playing it slow". I feel sure that is not so. Nevertheless, one cannot help getting the impression that, for some reason or another, the Government are not in a mad hurry to introduce this legislation.

But ought we not to be in rather more of a hurry? I do not wish to introduce any note of criticism or controversy into my remarks; but we really cannot afford to put off legislation any longer. We have already waited far too long.

The Ford dispute was not an isolated event. In the last three years, we have had a succession of major industrial stoppages, including the disastrous seamen's strike and a whole series of dockers' strikes.

Mr. Lubbock

And the B.O.A.C. pilots.

Mr. Sandys

That had not escaped my notice. These various stoppages all resulted in vast losses of production and exports, and did untold damage to confidence and goodwill among the foreign buyers of British products all over the world; and now, as the hon. Member has pointed out, we see B.O.A.C. grounded by a strike which the right hon. Lady has described as a national tragedy. Who can say what other key industry will be next?

It may not be possible immediately to draw up a comprehensive plan to reform the whole structure of our industrial relations. But that is no reason why we should not in advance of general legislation deal with this one urgent point; that is to say, provide the limited and specific power needed to secure a conciliation pause in disputes which threaten the national interest.

There should be no difficulty in finding Parliamentary time for this short Bill. If necessary, some other Bill of a less urgent nature—and I can think of one in particular—might perhaps be dropped.

It is unusual for an issue of this importance to be raised by a private Member in this way under the Ten Minute Rule. It would be more normal for such an initiative to come from the Government. In this connection, there is a strong rumour that Ministers are at this moment actively considering the desirability of introducing a short Bill to deal with the most urgent aspects of this problem, very much on the lines which I am suggesting. I hope that is true. All I would say is that if the Government will confirm now that they definitely intend to legislate this Session, I shall naturally withdraw my Motion. However, in the absence of such an assurance I shall ask leave to bring in this Bill.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot

I rise to oppose the right hon. Gentleman's application. Although I am sure that the whole House must have been deeply touched by the expression of his motives at the beginning of his speech and by his desire to assist the Government, I am not quite sure whether the Government would prefer to be assisted by him or by me. I am certain of this, however, that when the right hon. Gentleman makes these assertions he is just as sincere as the Conservative Party usually is when it trespasses into trade union affairs. It very often tells us that the Conservative Party has a long tradition of seeking to assist the trade unions—and I see that heads are nodding on the other side of the House. I think this dates from some friendly gestures towards the trade unions made by the late Mr. Disraeli. Indeed, I almost expect Conservatives on some occasions to tell us that the original martyrs in the trade union cause were all members of the Tolpuddle Conservative Union.

The right hon. Gentleman has based his case on somewhat different grounds. He has suggested not only that he is eager to assist the Government but that there is common ground all over the country, and, indeed, on different sides of the House, for this approach, and said that he was making almost a bipartisan proposal. But the right hon. Gentleman and the rest of the House must be aware that these trade union matters, including those which might be incorporated in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, if he ever had a chance to introduce it, have been very deeply examined over many years. They have been examined, in particular, by the Donovan Commission, which produced a most brilliantly documented Report on trade union affairs. I must say that it would be a very surprising development if solutions to these awkward problems, which have not occurred to Lord Donovan and his friends, were suddenly to be discovered by the right hon. Gentleman; but that is the position which he is seeking to present to the House. It is the fact, of course, that the Donovan Commission examined these matters extremely carefully and they came to their conclusion. I shall not read the whole of the section of the Report, because that would put me out of order, but this bears conclusively on the matters which would be incorporated in some form or other in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about the Conservative Party variant which he preferred. Of course, the Conservative Party variant, in particular, was considered by the Donovan Commission, although other variants were, I am sure, also considered by it. Anyway, page 267 of the Report reads: Various means of reducing the number of official and unofficial strikes are examined. The possibility of introducing a new procedure for dealing with stoppages 'creating grave national loss or widespread hindrance to public health and safety' is examined but rejected; so also is the possibility of making strike ballots compulsory. I realise that that deals with another aspect of the matter. Therefore, it is the fact, which hon. Members in all parts of the House have to contend, that this Commission which examined this question for so long, after all the pressures throughout the country to reach legalistic solutions for these awkward problems, came to a quite different conclusion which would certainly range it against the right hon. Gentleman's Bill today.

It is the custom, Mr. Speaker—and, of course, the right hon. Gentleman indicated that he may have some allies in this measure—when right hon. or hon. Gentlemen secure the leave of the House to introduce a Bill that they should at a later stage indicate who are the persons who will join them in preparing and bringing in the Bill. Maybe the right hon. Gentleman has some people in mind. Perhaps such trade union stalwarts as the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), or even the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who has been introduced on this apposite day, might be prepared to join in producing the Bill. But, alas, we shall never have the opportunity of hearing this list of names.

So, Mr. Speaker, I believe I introduce the novelty in constitutional procedure of giving the list of names of those who are opposed to the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman is presenting to the House; that is, those who have helped to prepare and bring in my opposition. Their names are given on page 278 of the Donovan Report. These are the people who reached conclusions opposed both to the Conservative Party variant for a cooling-off period, and, indeed, I believe, to all the other forms of variants. Certainly, it would be impossible for anybody to claim that the Ford dispute had altered the argument in any way, because the main conclusion for anyone to draw from the Ford dispute is that it has cost the country millions of pounds because the employers resorted to law. Let me give the names of those eminent persons who agree with my views on these matters. Page 278 reads: All of which we humbly submit for your Majesty's Gracious Consideration

  • Donovan
  • Robens



George Woodcock

Mary Green

George Pollock

Eric L. Wigham"

An Hon. Member


Mr. Foot

He is not on anybody's payroll, except The Times.

  • "H. A. Clegg
  • Otto Kahn Freund
  • Andrew Shonfield
  • John Thomson"
—That is quite an impressive list, and there is another name on the list——

Sir C. Osborne

The Home Secretary.

Mr. Foot

It says "J. S. Cassels". I thought for a moment it was "J. Callaghan". If that were so, I am sure it would make it pretty well unanimous.

I am sure the House will understand that the overwhelming weight of substantial opinion of all those who have studied this matter is ranged against the right hon. Gentleman, and any who might be so unwise as to try at a later date to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, I invite the whole House to oppose the right hon. Gentleman's application. I am sure that everyone on this side of the House will be eager to do it, even though some may be more eager than others. I look forward to leading a united party into the Lobby.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):

The House divided: Ayes 192, Noes 247.

Division No. 140.] AYES [3.59 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Bruce-Gardyne, J. Digby, Simon Wingfield
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Bryan, Paul Donnelly, Desmond
Astor, John Bullus, Sir Eric Doughty, Charles
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Burden, F. A. Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Drayson, G. B.
Batsford, Brian Carlisle, Mark Eden, Sir John
Bell, Ronald Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Channon, H. P. G. Emery, Peter
Berry, Hn. Anthony Chichester-Clark, R. Eyre, Reginald
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Clegg, Walter Farr, John
Black, Sir Cyril Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Fisher, Nigel
Blaker, Peter Cordle, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Corfield, F. V. Fortescue, Tim
Body, Richard Costain, A. P. Foster, Sir John
Bossom, Sir Clive Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Boyd-Carpcnter, Rt. Hn. John Crouch, David Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Braine, Bernard Currie, G. B. H. Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Brewis, John Dalkeith, Earl of Glover, Sir Douglas
Brinton, Sir Tatton Dance, James Glyn, Sir Richard
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Goodhart, Philip Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Gower, Raymond McNair-Wilson, M. (Walthamstow, E.) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Grant, Anthony McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Grant-Ferris, R. Maddan, Martin Royle, Anthony
Gresham Cooke, R. Maginnis, John E. Russell, Sir Ronald
Gurden, Harold Marten, Neil Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maude, Angus Scott, Nicholas
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Scott-Hopkins, James
Harvie Anderson, Miss Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Sharples, Richard
Hawkins, Paul Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Hay, John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Silvester, Frederick
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Sinclair, Sir George
Heseltine, Michael Miscampbell, Norman Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Higgins, Terence L. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Speed, Keith
Hiley, Joseph Monro, Hector Stodart, Anthony
Hill, J. E. B. Montgomery, Fergus Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir. M.
Holland, Philip More, Jasper Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hordern, Peter Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Hornby, Richard Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Temple, John M.
Howell, David (Guildford) Murton, Oscar Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Hunt, John Nabarro, Sir Gerald Tilney, John
Hutchison, Michael Clark Neave, Airey Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Iremonger, T. L. Nicholls, Sir Harmar van Straubenzee, W. R.
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Nott, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Onslow, Cranley Wall, Patrick
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Osborn, John (Hallam) Walters, Dennis
Jopling, Michael Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Ward, Dame Irene
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Page, Graham (Crosby) Weatherill, Bernard
Kaberry, Sir Donald Page, John (Harrow, W.) Wells, John (Maidstone)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Kitson, Timothy Peel, John Wiggin, J.
Lambton, Viscount Peyton, John Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Pink, R. Bonner Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Lane, David Pounder, Rafton Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Langford-Holt, Sir John Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Price, David (Eastleigh) Woodnutt, Mark
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Prior, J. M. L. Worsley, Marcus
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Pym, Francis Wright, Esmond
Longden, Gilbert Quennell, Miss J. M. Younger, Hn. George
McAdden, Sir Stephen Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
MacArthur, Ian Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Mr. Robert Cooke and
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Ridsdale, Julian Mr. Victor Goodhew.
Albu, Austen Dalyell, Tam Forrester, John
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Darling, Rt. Hn. George Fowler, Gerry
Anderson, Donald Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Freeson, Reginald
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Galpern, Sir Myer
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Gardner, Tony
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Garrett, W. E.
Barnes, Michael Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Ginsburg, David
Barnett, Joel Davies, Harold (Leek) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Baxter, William Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Gregory, Arnold
Beaney, Alan Dell, Edmund Grey, Charles (Durham)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Dempsey, James Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Binns, John Dewar, Donald Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Bishop, E. S. Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)
Booth, Albert Dickens, James Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Boston, Terence Dobson, Ray Hamling, William
Boyden, James Doig, Peter Hannan, William
Bradley, Tom Driberg, Tom Harper, Joseph
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Dunn, James A. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brooks, Edwin Dunnett, Jack Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Edelman, Maurice Haseldine, Norman
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hattersley, Roy
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hazel, Bert
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Ellis, John Heffer, Eric S.
Buchan, Norman English, Michael Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ennals, David Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Ensor, David Howie, W.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Hoy, James
Cant, R. B. Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Carmichael, Neil Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Hugrres, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fernyhough, E. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Chapman, Donald Finch, Harold Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Coe, Denis Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Hunter, Adam
Concannon, J. D. Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Hynd, John
Conlan, Bernard Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Crostand, Rt. Hn. Anthony Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Ford, Ben Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Jeger, George (Goole) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Molloy, William Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Moonman, Eric Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Silverman, Julius
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Skeffington, Arthur
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Murray, Albert Small, William
Judd, Frank Neal, Harold Spriggs, Leslie
Kelley, Richard Newens, Stan Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Ogden, Eric Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Lawson, George O'Malley, Brian Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Leadbitter, Ted Oram, Albert E. Strauss, R. Hn. G. R.
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Orme, Stanley Taverne, Dick
Lee, John (Reading) Oswald, Thomas Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Lestor, Miss Joan Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Thornton, Ernest
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Owen, Will (Morpeth) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Tinn, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Paget, R. T. Urwin, T. W.
Lomas, Kenneth Palmer, Arthur Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Loughlin, Charles Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Luard, Evan Park, Trevor Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lubbock, Eric Pavitt, Laurence Wallace, George
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Watkins, David (Consett)
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Weitzman, David
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pentland, Norman Wellbeloved, James
McBride, Neil Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
McCann, John Perry, George H. (Nottingham, s.) Whitaker, Ben
MacColl, James Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E. Whitlock, William
Macdonald, A. H. Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Wilkins, W. A.
McGuire, Michael Price, William (Rugby) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Probert, Arthur Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Rankin, John Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Maclennan, Robert Rees, Merlyn Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
McNamara, J. Kevin Richard, Ivor Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Winnick, David
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Robertson, John (Paisley) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Manuel, Archie Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Mapp, Charles Rodgers, William (Stockton) Woof, Robert
Marks, Kenneth Roebuck, Roy Wyatt, Woodrow
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Rowlands, E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mendelson, J. J. Ryan, John Mr. James Hamilton and
Millan, Bruce Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Mr. Russell Kerr.
Miller, Dr. M. S. Sheldon, Robert