HC Deb 30 April 1969 vol 782 cc1527-76

  1. (1) There shall be established in accordance with the provisions of this section a joint management committee for the management of local post offices within each of twenty-six areas to be defined by the Minister in agreement with the recognised trade unions to be called 'the Local Post Office Joint Management Committee'.
  2. (2) Each Joint Management Committee shall consist of a chairman to be elected by the members of the Joint Management Committee, and twenty members of whom 50 per cent. shall be appointed by the Minister and 50 per cent. elected for periods of three years by and from the organised trade union employees in the area in accordance with a procedure to be agreed by the Minister after agreement with the recognised trade unions.
  3. (3) Those members appointed by the Minister shall be appointed from amongst persons appearing to the Minister to have had wide experience of and to have shown capacity in matters concerning services which under this Part of this Act the Post Office has power to provide, or industrial, commercial, professional or financial matters, pure or applied science, politics, economics, technology, administration or the organisation of workers.
  4. (4) It shall be the duty of each Joint Management Committee to administer the provision of postal services in its area in accordance with powers conferred on it by the Post Office.—[Mr. Newens.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

With new Clause 10 new Clause 13—Joint Management Committees in subsidiaries of Post Office—and the following Amendments have been selected for debate:

No. 12, in Clause 6, page 5, line 38, leave out from 'be' to end of subsection and insert: elected by the members of the Post Office, 50 per cent. of whom shall be appointed by the Minister and 50 per cent., elected for periods of three years, by and from the organised trade union employees in the Post Office in accordance with a procedure to be agreed by the Minister by consultation with the recognised trade unions'. No. 14, in page 6, line 1, leave out from beginning to 'shall' and insert: 'Those members of the Post Office appointed by the Minister'. No. 196, in Clause 11, page 11, line 30, leave out subsection (7).

No. 54, in page 11, line 41, after 'Minister', insert: 'the trade unions and members of joint management committees'.

Mr. Newens

The object of this Clause is to provide for the establishment of joint management committees representative of workers as well as of the Minister. It is to be taken in association with new Clause No. 13 and a number of Amendments which are also in the names of my hon. Friends and in my name which have the general objective of providing for a measure of workers' control in the Post Office. The idea of public ownership is often regarded as the hallmark of Socialism and the be-all and end-all of what we as Socialists seek to achieve. Public ownership without proper forms of administration may not be Socialism at all. Industrial democracy is just as essentian as public ownership itself if we are to achieve a Socialist state of society.

8.15 p.m.

The idea of industrial democracy was basic to Socialist thought in the past and was closely connected with the work of the Co-operative movement. In these circumstances, I am very disappointed that there are no provisions in the Bill for the introduction of some measure of industrial democracy. I find this particularly disconcerting at a time when interest in industrial democracy is reviving in the country, and in the Labour movement in particular, by leaps and bounds. Participation is today an "in" word and the Union of Post Office Workers accepted the notion of workers' control of industry many years ago.

A few weeks ago I attended a conference in Sheffield called by the Institute of Workers' Control at which there were over 1,000 delegates. We shall be missing a great opportunity if at the time when we are reorganising the Post Office we do not take some steps towards the introduction of industrial democracy and workers' control through the passing of this Measure. However, we seem to be constituting a national board more or less on the model of those established for nationalised industries during the 1945–51 period. To many of us in the Labour movement, based on our experience, this set-up is no longer satisfactory.

The proposals in new Clause 10 and the other Amendments would provide for the Post Office to be controlled by a board not of Ministerial appointees as the Bill suggests, but of 50 per cent. Ministerial appointees and 50 per cent. workers' representatives. In addition, for Post Office purposes the country would be divided into 26 areas each with a joint management committee which would be made up of 50 per cent. Ministerial appointees and 50 per cent. workers' representatives. New Clause 13 provides for similar arrangements in wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Post Office.

The proposals put forward in the new Clauses and Amendments are comparatively moderate. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General went on record some time ago attacking the idea of syndicalism and pointed out what he regarded as the dangers of lack of responsibility to the community and to consumers, but new Clause 10 and these other proposals have the concept of joint management, a concept in which there would be equal provision for Ministerial appointees and workers' representatives to participate in decisions affecting the policy of the Post Office.

Of course the Ministerial representatives would be present to defend the public interest. I do not believe it fair to suggest that workers are interested only in their own narrow, selfish interests. Practical experience suggests the opposite. Very often the pressure of public responsibility overrides workers' representatives' concern with their own constituents. This has been the experience in co-determination in West Germany in many respects. For this reason I regard it as particularly important that the workers' representatives should be subject to period reelection. I propose that they should stay for a term of three years. The possibility that they might be turned out of office would be very healthy, because the necessity of facing an election always concentrates the mind enormously.

Workers representatives should be genuinely responsible to the workers who elect them and this proposal provides for this object to be achieved. I hope that it will be possible for workers' representatives to report back to the people who have elected them between elections and so make the form of democracy which I propose real.

Despite the views of my hon. Friends and myself, we have not set out any very detailed hard and fast procedure. We suggest that the electoral procedures to be employed could be determined by agreement between the Minister and the trade unions within the industry.

Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

Whilst the hon. Gentleman is on the question of recognised trade unions, so that we can apply our minds to the practical effects, may I ask how many unions would be involved?

Mr. Newens

I suggest all the trade unions recognised within the Post Office at present.

Mr. Clegg

How many?

Mr. Newens

I am not concerned to enumerate them, because I do not wish to lay down any hard and fast procedure which could not encompass changes in the present arrangements—for example, if a merger took place between the Post Office unions. I do not wish to be too detailed on this point, because I recognise that changes are taking place the whole time.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

It is up to the workers.

Mr. Newens

My hon. Friend says that it is up to the workers in the industry to determine these things. This is the objective of the new Clauses and the Amendments.

Mr. R. F. H. Dobson (Bristol, North-East)

The hon. Member for North Fylde wanted to know who are the people who now hold recognition. I think that was the phrase he used.

Mr. Newens

The unions?

Mr. Dobson

The unions which now hold recognition. Is my hon. Friend aware that some unions hold recognition inside the Post Office purely for historical reasons and that they are bitterly opposed by other unions, in association with the T.U.C. and the Labour Party, who say that they no longer have any right to that recognition?

Mr. Newens

I am conscious of this. For this reason I do not wish to get involved in the sort of digressive argument which the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) was tempting me to pursue. The recognition of trade unions and whether amalgamation of particular trade unions should take place must be determined by the workers in the industry. The purpose of the new Clauses or the Amendments is not to determine the recognition or non-recognition of particular trade unions. I am concerned about the possibility of introducing a real measure of workers' control into the Post Office. The number of recognised trade unions is to a large extent irrelevant to this matter.

If the reforms which I propose are found by my right hon. Friend to be unacceptable, I am prepared to withdraw the new Clause if he will promise to come forward with something which will achieve similar results. But it is essential at this stage that provisions should be introduced which will enable the workers in the industry to play a real part in the policy making of the Post Office.

Some people may argue that trade unions are suspicious about the notion of industrial democracy. I emphasise that this is not so with the Union of Post Office Workers, which has published a pamphlet on workers' control based on the decisions of its 1956 Annual Conference. In that pamphlet it states: Workers control then is something more than you and I having a say in the making of decisions. On the contrary, it ought to mean that the responsibility for making the decisions that determine policy must be shouldered by all those who work by hand or brain within the industry. This document, putting forward the union's policy, goes on to state that consultation is not enough and it suggests the idea of a joint administrative council on a fifty-fifty basis.

I have put forward my arguments on this basis. However, I emphasise that industrial democracy is not trade union control of an industry. It is important I should make this point clear. Many trade union leaders would feel compromised if they were made responsible for all policy decisions. The sort of arrangement that I believe can be worked out is one in which trade unions will continue to exercise the part which they have played in the past, but at the same time workers' representatives would exercise real powers of control over policy making.

Perhaps I may compare the situation to that which exists in the Co-operative movement, because it may help to indicate what I am seeking. In the Co-operative movement there is a large measure of workers' control. Many workers stand for the boards which control the Co-operative movement, but at the same time the trade unions are independent of the boards and carry on the functions which they would carry on vis-à-vis other employers in other industries.

It is quite clear that workers' representatives in the Post Office have achieved a sufficient level of knowledge and sophistication to be as capable of administering the affairs of the Post Office as others who in the past have been appointed to nationalised boards. I do not wish to be scornful of them, but when we consider the long list of retired ex-Service officers, business men, civil servants and others who have staffed the nationalised boards, I feel sure that in the Post Office today there are many people who would be as capable of exercising the functions which would be placed upon them as these other people, if not rather better. When one looks at private industry today, one can see that many of its directors, especially those who are at the head of organisations taking over other concerns as conglomerates, have no detailed knowledge of the workings of the concerns which they take over. A great deal of useful information could be provided and a very important part could be played by workers' representatives, who know the position in the industry from the workers' point of view, in helping the Post Office to be a more successful industrial and commercial concern.

Many people are concerned about the policies being pursued by the organisations for which they work. A person who I know very well has been drafted to work on the Giro. It is clear from suggestions and ideas that he has put to me that he has given a great deal of thought to the problems involved and knows a great deal more about the possibilities of the Giro than many others do. The sort of information which could come from the bottom levels to the top through arrangements such as those that I advocate would greatly strengthen the viability of the Post Office. It would not merely serve the interests of the workers, but help to make the Post Office more efficient.

As I have said, the new Clause and the Amendments do not raise the issue of full workers' control, or what might be described as "syndicalism". They do not raise the issue of direct workers' representation in committees based on individual Post Offices, although I support that concept and hope that the day may come when we can introduce it.

The new Clause and its associated Amendments are very moderate in their intentions. They propose merely to take certain steps in the direction of industrial democracy. They do not go all the way along the path which I would like to see us travel.

In these circumstances, a great deal of information must be made available to workers' representatives and trade unionists in the Post Office. Workers' representatives will require access to information to enable them to determine policies upon which they will be asked to pronounce. Amendment No. 54 provides that the Post Office shall furnish not only the Minister with such returns, accounts and other information with respect to its property and activities, and, if it has subsidiaries, with respect to their property and activities, as he may from time to time require. It provides also that they shall be furnished to the trade unions and members of joint management committees envisaged in these proposals.

I appreciate that it may be said that there is a need for confidentiality in the use of this information. My reply to anyone who criticises the proposals on that ground is that I hope that breaches of confidence will be avoided by these representatives in the same way as they are in various other forms of control. In the case of the British Steel Corporation, we provided that certain information should be made available. It will be a retrograde step if we do not provide for equal facilities in the Post Office.

The Post Office Bill that we are considering—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not at this juncture considering the Bill. We are discussing new Clause 10.

Mr. Newens

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I may put it like this. The Post Office Bill which has been considered is likely to establish the shape of this great national industry for some time to come. In the years ahead, the demand for participation will grow. What we are doing today should provide some scope within which that participation can be expanded.

I believe that, unless some such provision as new Clause 10 is incorporated in the Bill, there will be considerable dissatisfaction among postal workers which they will have no opportunity of expressing in the way they should. I believe that we in the community will lose from the fact that there will be no possibility of the interest of workers in their concern to be guided into channels of use to the community.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)

This is an important new Clause but I cannot understand why, when it stands not only in the name of the hon. Gentleman but in the names of 18 of his hon. Friends, only one of them is sitting here tonight. Will he explain the lack of enthusiasm among his hon. Friends who thought that the new Clause was important enough to have their names attached to it but are not even bothering to listen to the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Newens

That is an irrelevant intervention. The hon. Gentleman is aware that, in this place, many things are going on at the same time and that no one knows beforehand the time at which a debate is going to take place. It may have caught the attention of several hon. Members opposite that there were certain other affairs in which I was interested earlier in our discussions but for which I could not be present. It frequently happens that there is a conflict between the demands on the time of an hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman knows that his intervention was frivolous.

The demand for participation will glow. My hon. Friends and I intend in future to raise it on every occasion when we are considering the work of nationalised industries. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to give full consideration to the points I have raised. If he is unable to accept the new Clause precisely as it stands, I am prepared to withdraw it to make way for some other method of moving towards the same end. If he were prepared to bring forward a new provision providing for a real measure of industrial democracy, he would be doing something to make the Post Office a model for numerous other industries, particularly other nationalised industries.

This is a vital debate. I have not introduced it in any frivolous sense. There is a great deal of demand for this sort of thing to be done, and when workers are concerned about their conditions and the way in which their industry is conducted, and when they have a right to demand that their interests be considered, we should, as far as possible, provide them with the means of doing is. That is the object of new Clause 10.

Mr. Stonehouse

What discussion has my hon. Friend had with the staff side in the G.P.O. in regard to new Clause 10?

Mr. Newens

I must confess that I have not had any official discussions with the staff side in the G.P.O. on this proposal but some of my hon. Friends who represent trade unions will be better able to speak on these matters than I. I have, however, spoken with Post Office workers and, though not in detail, have mentioned these matters to my hon. Friends in the past and I know that there is considerable interest.

I am not sponsored by any of the unions which represent the workers in the Post Office and I regret that it is not possible for me to say that my case is the official point of view of a trade union. But the ideas I have been putting forward command a great deal of sympathy in the working-class movement in general and more and more people today recognise that, until we are prepared to make changes in order to provide opportunities for people to participate in the control of their organisations, we shall increase the tremendous amount of frustration which is felt in the nationalised industries today.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I counsel the Minister to approach with caution the fascinating arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). If the proposals made by the hon. Gentleman were to be implemented, much unnecessary difficulty could result. I therefore hope that the Minister will not rush into accepting these proposals unthinkingly without fully appreciating the possible consequences.

The hon. Member, in presenting his sincere argument, applied several descriptions to his suggestions. He first called them Socialist and then indicated that they might be syndicalist. It struck me that they were very similar to the arguments and propositions which have been advanced by back-seat drivers through the ages. The hon. Gentleman mentioned his friend who knows how to run Giro much better than those who are running it. He must know that there are many hon. Members, perhaps even some on his side of the House, who believe that they could run the Government and lead the Cabinet even more expertly than the present Prime Minister, but this does not necessarily mean that we would automatically accept that this was so.

The traditional problem which has faced people at all levels of industry for generations is that, just as everyone in Parliament cannot be Prime Minister, so everyone in industry cannot be managing director. It is foolish to argue on the assumption that the fruits of office can be shared equally amongst all. It is a long time since Rousseau wrote his splendid work explaining how the problems of industry and the world could best be resolved by peasants sitting under an oak tree and deciding matters in a reasonable way. All our experience of trying to resolve problems in that way teaches us that it does not necessarily lead to the right conclusions, nor does it invariably lead to harmony and acceptance amongst the participants.

In view of the problems which the Post Office is faced with at present and the significant challenges it is facing up to, it would be a grave mistake to impose on the Post Office all the peculiarities and special features which at present apply to the London School of Economics. The Post Office has enough problems already without their being added to.

In presenting his proposals the hon. Member for Epping meant business. If we are to approach this issue sensibly and reasonably, we must ask certain questions. The first was posed by the Minister in his very telling intervention. He asked if the trade unions have been consulted, whether they liked this proposal, and whether they thought that it would work. I was astonished to learn that the hon. Member for Epping had drawn up a new national plan for the Post Office without even taking the opportunity of finding whether the workers' elected representatives considered that it was a fair and reasonable way of running the Post Office. This astonishing proposition can be regarded only as a kind of philosophical meandering into the kind of situation which might be helpful.

Mr. Newens

I hope that it has not escaped the notice of the hon. Gentleman that the Union of Post Office Workers has for a considerable time advocated the concept of workers' control. I have read the documents dealing with this matter.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt admit that he belongs to several organisations which accept many things in principle, but which shift their views when faced with the stark reality of working out those things in practice. I am sure that that would be the view of the trade unions concerned, if they looked at the details.

Mr. Clegg

The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) spoke all along the line about participation, but it seems to me that in these proposals the element of participation by the Post Office workers themselves is nil.

Mr. Taylor

It is tragic, when we are dealing with a proposition concerned with workers' control, to find that the whole proposed set up has been decided on, not by the workers themselves, who, I am sure, would have some very interesting observations to make on it, but by one of a group of 19 people, only one of whom is now present. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), having heard his disciple this evening, has apparently thought it safe to leave us, perhaps in case his views might be undermined by what I say.

The hon. Member has tabled a detailed new Clause, and there is another new Clause associated with it which is equally detailed. Having read the Clause with extreme care and caution, and having listened to the hon. Member, I am still not clear precisely what the Post Office joint management committees would have to do. What precisely would be their functions? Where would they start and where would they stop? What would be the range of decision making in a committee's area?

Would these committees have the right to make policy decisions on the service provided? Would they be able to decide on the hours of opening and closing? Would they be able to make decisions on the qualifications needed for particular tasks within an area? Would they be able to decide on the appropriate size for, say, a book of stamps, or for anything else supplied from a machine? Would they be able to decide on the location of Post Office letter boxes? Would they be able to decide where telephone kiosks ought to be, and on whether or not an expansion of Post Office telephone kiosks ought to be encouraged?

I am sure that in each instance the hon. Member would say, "These are really policy decisions which should be arrived at nationally—

Mr. Clegg

Before my hon. Friend goes further with his range of activities, perhaps one could ask—

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not customary for an hon. Member to address the House, and not just his hon. Friends?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

It is the practice of hon. Members to address the Chair.

Mr. Clegg

I am very sorry if I was not addressing the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I certainly do so in asking my hon. Friend whether, before leaving his list of activities, he will dwell upon another main activity—the right to hire and fire. I have always understood that the right to hire and fire was not one of the qualifications belonging to a union, but that, in fact, it was the one bar to membership.

Mr. Rankin

On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. How far is this line of argument to be sustained? In dealing with the proposed new Clause, have we to investigate every single aspect of Post Office consultation and management, which is a topic that may be pursued ad infinitum? Is there any control over this type of extension—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member can leave it to the Chair to rule what is in order. At this stage, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) is in order.

Mr. Taylor

I emphasise to all hon. Members, and not just to the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin), who takes a very great interest in all industrial matters, that when we have a proposal to revolutionise the way in which we manage a major monopoly organisation, it is very important that we should give careful consideration to how it would work, and to the various aspects involved. It is one of the tragedies of many of the reforms brought into Parliament, and brought in particularly by this Administration, that new ideas have been introduced without all their implications having been thought out, and their effects on the public considered.

Mr. Newens

The hon. Member would not suggest that in legislation we should define the exact functions of any particular committee right down to their right to decide the size of a book of stamps. Some of the points made by the hon. Member are not serious points because they cannot be determined. I was dealing with the general principle of enabling joint management committees to have powers conferred upon them as set out in the new Clause. It would not be the purpose of a new Clause or Amendment to lay down matters as minute as those to which the hon. Member referred.

Mr. Taylor

That is the whole point. The hon. Member has just said that we cannot in detail specify everything which the joint management committees will do. What range of activities has the hon. Member in mind for a point management committee in an area?

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. Might I draw Mr. Deputy Speaker's attention to the fact that the hon. Member has indicated that he wants to have some knowledge of the definition of the range of matters which may be affected by the new Clause which has been moved by my hon. Friend? Has the hon. Member forgotten that he started his speech way back in the days of Rousseau? It seems to be as long ago as that since he embarked upon it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Interventions should be brief because they only prolong speeches.

Mr. Taylor

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is a desperately serious argument. It is one of the most fundamental issues since I became a Member of Parliament and we must approach it seriously.

The hon. Member for Epping has proposed a revolution. We want to find out what kind of revolution he has in mind. I have the greatest admiration and respect for the Postmaster-General, but some of his Cabinet colleagues have in the past accepted ideas which involved major changes without their being thought out.

My purpose is not to antagonise the hon. Member for Govan or any other hon. Member, but to put to the Postmaster-General some of the difficulties which I see so that he does not rush in and say, "What a splendid idea. We will have worker control in the Post Office" and then, some years later, he will find out what has been done to the Post Office, to those who work in it, and to the viability of the whole concern.

We must have some idea what the hon. Member for Epping wants these committees to undertake. Does he envisage that a local management committee will decide upon the allocation of money to be spent within an area? Does he envisage that they will decide upon the priorities of whether money should be spent on one post office or another? This is a fundamental and important point. Is their decision to be quite out of the control of any other body or will they make their decision in consultation with others? Will other bodies be able to make representations to them?

What about the kind of decisions which affect the public in a significant way, such as the question whether deliveries of mail should start at 6, 7 or 8 o'clock. Surely the convenience of workers must come into the matter a great deal. What is important for business and commerce as well as for individuals is that their mail should arrive at a particular time. Conflicting interests are involved.

I talk as a former Post Office worker, although admittedly for a limited period of time. When I had the pleasure and privilege of being a student at Glasgow University, I worked at the Post Office during the Christmas holidays. It gave me a broader outlook on Post Office workers and a greater admiration for their spirit and the difficulties which they encounter. It was not a great pleasure to get up at five o'clock in the morning on a winter's day and to have to do my stint sorting and delivering letters. I appreciate now in a way that I did not before that this is not the most pleasant or amenable of jobs. It is a very inconvenient job. However, I appreciated that it was important for the business community and the people in the area in which I was delivering that their mail should be delivered at a reasonable hour. There was a conflict of interest between myself and others who would have preferred a long lie-in in bed.

What would happen if this kind of decision had to be made by a local joint management committee comprised of Ministerial representatives, some of whom, according to the Clause, must have experience of the organisation of workers and fifty per cent. of whom must be representatives of workers? Although people serving on the committee must leave narrow parochial interests out of the decision, it will be very difficult entirely to dissociate their personal interests and convenience from the question of public satisfaction. Are we to make this kind of decision? The hon. Member for Epping did not tell us.

An even more fundamental point is this: will the local joint management committee have the power to veto the suspension, sacking or employing of an individual or groups of individuals? If so, will it exercise that power directly? Will it simply have a veto over decisions made by management on the spot?

Mr. Newens

Before the hon. Gentleman continues in this way, may I ask him to read the new Clause again? Subsection (4) provides: It shall be the duty of each Joint Management Committee to administer the provision of postal services in its area in accordance with powers conferred on it by the Post Office. Ultimately, the Post Office will confer those powers and determine the general scope within which they will be exercised. I could have dealt at great length with every detail and all the points which the hon. Gentleman has raised down to the size of the book of stamps. It is clear from the new Clause that these powers will be conferred by the Post Office.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman talks about dealing at length with every detail. We listened patiently and with interest to him for a considerable time. I do not complain about that because it was clear that he was speaking with sincerity and was endeavouring to interest us. I think that he succeeded. On the other hand, bearing in mind what is suggested in subsection (4) of the new Clause, he had an obligation to tell us what he had in view. I do not ask him to specify whether the joint management committee would have control over the hiring and firing of men or whether it would control mail deliveries, but I expect him to give a broad indication of the range of functions which he thinks it would be appropriate for the Post Office to allocate to it.

What I fear is that the Government will say, "We accept this in principle", but make absolutely sure that no meaningful powers are given to the local joint management committees. I do not like the idea at all. I do not accept that the case for worker participation has been proved. The worst of all possible worlds would be for the Minister to accept the idea and say, "I shall keep the wild Left-wingers happy in the hope that they will co-operate with me in getting the Bill through", knowing all the time that he will not give the joint management committees meaningful powers. If there is one thing which my limited experience of industry has taught me, it is that to pretend that there are powers to operate, powers to manage, powers to consult, when in reality there are not, does much more damage than doing nothing.

9.0 p.m.

I hope that the Postmaster-General will not try to dodge the issue by saying that the Government will think of some kind of joint consultation, some kind of workers' control, some kind of joint participation, but that they will not get down to details and will leave the Post Office to decide. It would be much better for him to say that the Government will have none of this nonsense, that it does not work, that it will not work, and that it would be bad for industry and the Post Office to impose it.

This is the first question. What would the committees do? The hon. Member for Epping gave us no indication. If they had the wide range of functions of subsection (4), they would completely interfere with the functions of management. How can one manage if, on dismissing someone for dishonesty or consistent bad timekeeping, the decision has to go, perhaps four weeks later, to a meeting of a joint management committee? How is it possible for management to make new working arrangements which may be inconvenient only to find that they may later be rejected by a joint management committee?

Would the committees manage? We cannot have too many chiefs and too few Indians. There cannot be two organisations, or three organisations, or a multitude of organisations, all saying that they manage. Not everyone can make decisions. One of the tragedies of our industry and of the trade union movement itself is the problem of the demarcation of decision making. We are never clear about who is responsible for what. These problems of the demarcation of decision making can bring with them far more industrial troubles than any trade demarcation, than any dispute about who will attach wood frames to metal bulkheads and things like that.

The second question, Mr. Gourlay—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. We are on Report, not in Committee.

Mr. Taylor

I am very sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The trouble with these occasions is that one gets so fascinated by the arguments that one forgets the circumstances, and this is a fascinating argument.

The second proposition is that the enormous advantage of workers' control and workers' participation is that the workers' representatives are not there for all time coming, that they are subject to election, say, every three years and will therefore keep in touch with their members and will therefore not make decisions or put forward proposals or recommendations which would cause trouble and which are not in touch with their membership.

Again speaking from my limited experience of industry, of shipyards on the Clyde in particular, I suggest that the worst possible thing for any committee which has to make responsible and not just popular decisions is the prospect of a triennial election. I recall once taking part in negotiations to do with the shipyards which were attended by one trade union representative who was usually a helpful, honourable and respectable chap who on that occasion was particularly unreasonable. When the negotiations were over, we asked him what had gone wrong and he said, "I hope you will excuse me; I have to be very militant as I am standing for election in two months' time".

That is the kind of thing which can happen in these joint management committees. Workers electing representatives will look for results and if they do not get them, they will choose someone else to champion their cause, someone who may lose the battles, but who will always be fighting them. If we had this system, there would be a danger that when unpopular decisions had to be made, the sober and more responsible would not have the opportunity to participate and we would have a crowd of wild people, of irresponsibles, who would contribute nothing and not add greatly to the efficiency of the Post Office.

Mr. Newens

The hon. Member is making a strong assault on the argument for democracy. Does he not accept that in private industry, for example, at least nominally, directors are subject to reelection by their shareholders? Does not the hon. Member feel that there is a considerable danger that directors might, therefore, have to behave in a way that would please the shareholders and sacrifice the public interest on those occasions? I believe that the danger of this occurring is much greater than that the workers' representatives would sacrifice the interest of the public to the interest of their own members. Workers are generally far more intimately involved with an organisation than are the shareholders.

Mr. Taylor

That intervention, interesting as it was, shows clearly that the hon. Member has not thought this out. How can we compare the situation of a private competitive enterprise, working within the disciplines of a capitalist system, and these rigid disciplines of monopolies in which the checks and balances of capitalism do not apply, in which there is not even competition between public industries and where one service is offered to a public who must be consumers whether they like it or not.

The vast majority of the public are not for or against the Post Office in any way. They have to use it because it provides an essential service. To compare a management committee of a monopoly in the public sector with free competitive enterprise, in which all its disciplines and the checks and balances operate according to the rules of capitalism, is not comparing like with like.

Mr. Newens

What about private monopolies?

Mr. Taylor

I deplore private monopolies. I suggest that if the normal disciplines of a capitalist economy apply, a profitable private monopoly cannot remain a monopoly. That is one of the checks and balances of the system. If there is freedom, it is impossible for a private monopoly to continue to be a monopoly. Sadly, however, that does not apply to a loss-making public enterprise.

However, I must not be tempted by the hon. Member away from the narrow subject which we are discussing. On another occasion we on this side look forward to fruitful and meaningful discussions with the hon. Member about the way we organise industry. Unfortunately, we cannot do that on the new Clause.

The hon. Member suggested that representation and participation were largely the same thing. He asks for participation and, therefore, he demands representation. He is asking for union representation as a means to promote participation. These are not the same things. We already have union representation for workers in negotiating with management. Does the hon. Member seriously suggest that in industry today, irrespective of how respectable and well-meaning they may be, those who have senior positions in trade unionism are representative in the sense in which participation with the workers is in any way meaningful?

We have long since passed the stage in industry and in the organisation of our unions, because of sheer size if for no other reason, when union representation and participation were anything like the same thing. I wonder just how representative our unions are, and, more important, just how representative the union representatives in the joint management committees would be. This is where we come to the very important question, where do the public come into all this? This, I think, is the key sector which the hon. Gentleman has left out in the question of participation. If we really believe in participation, if we really believe in workers' control, whom are we trying to protect and whom are we trying to serve, and where does the public interest come in?

When I talk of public interest I am not thinking in terms of saying, can we have one representative of the general public on one of these committees? I do not want the busybodies of Britain to be sitting on these committees and allegedly representing the interests of the people. Things just do not work this way. What we must have, I believe—and this is our responsibility—is to have our organisations made in such a way that the interests of Mr. Average, who, perhaps, does not want to participate at all, are protected, simply by the way in which we construct the organisations. I suggest that we have not done that here.

It is a sad fact and rather a paradox that in the nation at the present time, when we have probably problems of greater complexity than we have ever had before, we have a range of institutions so wide and so diverse as never before supposedly to cope with all these problems. Name one problem at all, and we find institutions and organisations which are there to cope with it. We have problems with the economy, and so we have economic planning councils and "Little Neddies" and prices and incomes boards. For every problem we have an enormous edifice of organisations and experts there to plan, to organise, to meddle in the affairs of everyone else and their own.

Clearly, one cannot go into this broad philosophical argument now, upon this very limited question, but I would suggest to the hon. Member that it does indeed have a very real and very significant influence on the kind of proposition which he is putting forward. He is putting forward a structure, he is putting forward a plan, he is putting forward another committee, and surely, if the time which he has spent in the House has convinced him of anything, it should have convinced him of this, that the one thing we suffer from in Britain today is in having too many committees, too many boards, too many councils, too many commissions, too many organisations, too much bureaucracy, which all get in the way of decision making, which stop decision making from happening, which prevent us, and prevent us absolutely, from arriving at the situation where a clear decision can be made and clear responsibility can be laid on those who are to take it and to take the decisions, and who are expected to make them, and who are in fact committed to making those decisions. What he is proposing is to put yet another kind of wet sponge into the process of decision making, so that someone else can carry part of the can, but we do not know precisely what part of the can that someone else will be carrying; but he is proposing that there should be somebody else on whom responsibility can be shoved.

I would say that, instead of making decisions, these local joint managing committees will say, "We will seek a report" and they will probably thereupon employ consultants to advise them on this job, and the consultants will probably invite experts to assist them, and they would, no doubt, appoint sub-committees, and at the end of the day the poor workers in the Post Office and the poor public will say, "Where do we come in?"—in the decision making. Where would the decisions be made? Where would the buck stop? Where would the responsibility stop?

I am very sorry indeed that the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends have not been here. I know they would want to participate, and it is sad that when we have a discussion on participation no one, who has put his name to this new Clause, apart from the hon. Member for Epping, is here to participate. I know the hon. Gentleman is interested in this and will want to listen to this point, although I know he has competing demands upon him at this time, and I would challenge him to make a clear statement where he stands, where the "Tribune" group stands, where Socialism stands on this and on the question, who is to bring the people into these decisions? When these local joint management committees are established and they make decisions, if they are going to make decisions—

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Rankin

I am sorry to interrupt, but the hon. Member is rather confused. Can he tell us where he stands at the moment?

Mr. Taylor

I am sorry, but I am not responsible for the hon. Member's lack of understanding. I have been trying to make my position crystal clear. I want the Post Office to be successful and I believe that the only way that this can happen is to make it crystal clear where decisions are made and who makes them. I am sure that I carry the hon. Member for Govan with me in this, because he is a friend of the people and speaks for them at every opportunity. That is what he regards as one of his functions. I ask him to read again through the new Clause and to ask himself where the people come in, and who protects them. If a decision is made which has an adverse effect on the people, are we simply to rely on the wishy-washy consumer councils that we shall discuss later? At what stage will they come in? Will it be after the decision has been made?

Mr. Newens

I do not know whether the hon. Member wants a reply. He appears to be riding his hobby-horse. He has cast aside all the facts that I endeavoured to adduce. There would be joint management. Some representatives would not be elected by the workers. Only 50 per cent. would be so elected. If the Post Office is controlled by people entirely appointed by the Minister, or is responsible for those so appointed, those people allegedly protect the public interest. The 50 per cent. would still have the opportunity to speak in the public interest. Many of the workers who were involved would be just as concerned to protect the public interest as would the other representatives. I hope that the hon. Member will make it clear that he is not casting any slurs upon the devotion of the workers in the Post Office.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member asks why I did not listen to the facts that he presented. I do not want to minimise the effort made by the hon. Member in presenting his case, but I ask him to read the report of his speech tomorrow in HANSARD. He will see that not only was there not an abundance of facts; there were no facts at all. There were only opinions, philosophies, thoughts and ideas. The hon. Member ended by saying that he had a great plan to revolutionise the Post Office, and that he wanted participation, but apparently he has not even thought of consulting the Union of Post Office Workers. How ridiculous can one get! I suggest that there was little idea of participation and little fact in what the hon. Member said.

I return to the basic features of the Clause. We must ask how the public interest will be protected. The hon. Member says that in any of the decisions that are made 50 per cent. of the representatives must be thinking about the interests of those employed, but I suggest that we cannot think in that way when dealing with people and services. It is necessary to allocate a substantial proportion of decision-making powers—especially in a public enterprise, and a massive monopoly—to people who must use the service because they have no alternative. A 50–50 percentage does not accord with reality, or with the public interest. It does not accord with the function of the Post Office which hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to see.

We must also have a clarification of the intention of the hon. Member for Epping and the massive group of hon. Members who have put their names to the new Clause—whom we have not seen since—on the question whether the local joint management committees would control finance or wages in any way. We must be told whether the responsibility would stop the moment finance became involved.

Remembering the very strict responsibilities with regard to finance which we are laying on the Post Office and the disciplines which the Minister hopes will be applied, particularly over its existing commercial activities, it would be intolerable if we then said that a local joint management committee could spend money and decide where money should go. If the hon. Gentleman envisages that these committees will have control of finance, he is driving a coach and horses through the principle of the Bill and of this Corporation, because then the board would have a responsibility which it could not carry out. The direct result of the local committees making their decisions about spending or not investing would be to cut across the financial operation of the Post Office. That would make a nonsense of what we envisage as a competitive and commercial enterprise.

But if he is not going to give them financial responsibilities—subsection (4) says that they will not have anything to do with finance, after all—then these committees will be shallow mockeries and will be able to offer nothing to the workers, to the Post Office or to the public. Therefore, if they have responsibility for finance one drives a coach and horses through the Bill's intentions and, if they do not, they will have nothing to say about investing, about new Post Offices, about locating telephone kiosks or even about the price of tea in staff canteens. This form of participation will be meaningless and it will not be workers' control.

This brings us back to the main argument. Surely what the Post Office and all of British industry needs is clear demarcation of decision-making. How could the Government be run if we did not know who was responsible for what? I know that it is sometimes very difficult. How could we run the House or a Committee unless we knew where responsibility lay? What is intolerable is putting responsibility over a wide area. Has the hon. Gentleman discussed the Clause with a head postmaster?

Mr. Dempsey

Why should he?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) is one of the most reasonable Members and one whose opinions I admire and respect, but he cannot have fully thought out that intervention. He asks, why should his hon. Friend consult a head postmaster? I do not think that the hon. Gentleman heard us asking the previous question—

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing)

Who has the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) consulted before making his speech?

Mr. Taylor

If I were to make a speech about the organisation of the Post Office without consulting trade union officials and a head postmaster, I would not expect it to be taken seriously.

Mr. Dempsey


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must leave the question of whom hon. Members have consulted and come back to the new Clause.

Mr. Dempsey

The hon. Member referred laughingly to consulting postmasters, but he originally said that one should consult a postmaster. Does he seriously suggest that someone is incapable of making a study and formulating an attitude about a joint management committee in a postal district without consulting a head postmaster?

Mr. Taylor

Some people have superb intelligence and can consider all the ramifications of an issue and say, "This is the answer". The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie is such a man. Fortunately, in our history such men have come to the fore and have made the right decisions. Does anyone suggest, however, that the 19 sponsors of the new Clause are in this category? Rather than save Britain and the Post Office, their proposals would only add to our difficulties.

Consultation is vital. After all, the Clause is about participation. However, it proposes not a change but a revolution in the way in which the Post Office is organised. Will this change be practicable? In previous revolutions the banners and flags have been hoisted and the march has taken place, the participants hoping for the best. That may be the way to have a revolution, but it is not the way to run the Post Office. The revolutionary, syndicalist ideas of the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) may be suitable for a London School of Economics lecture, but they are not suitable for running the Post Office, on which the nation depends.

If the Postmaster-General presented a proposal like this to the House saying, "I have not consulted the unions or postmasters about this, but I feel sure that my decision is right", he would be jumped on and called crazy, foolish and anti-Socialist by the very hon. Members who are proposing the new Clause.

Mr. Newens


Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) seeking to intervene in the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), or has the hon. Member for Cathcart finished his speech?

Mr. Rankin

Has he finished? He has been speaking for only an hour.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Cathcart must decide whether he has finished his speech or is giving way.

Mr. Taylor

To be honest, Mr. Speaker, I had only just begun my speech. I had intended to adduce a number of arguments. Although few hon. Gentlemen have been present on the benches opposite, those who have been here have intervened in a way which has made it necessary for me to develop my case at some length. I promise to bring my remarks to as speedy a conclusion as possible.

Mr. Newens

I have been enjoying the hon. Gentleman's comedy turn as much as anybody else. If he thinks that I did not consult anybody before making this proposal, he must be tilting at windmills for the entertainment of the House. Is he aware—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are on Report and not in Committee. He made a speech of some length earlier. If he wishes to intervene, he must be brief.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Newens

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Cathcart knows well that I have consulted people and that I have considerable connections with people in the Post Office. I have not come here with a clear mandate from the National Union of Post Office Workers on every jot and tittle in the drafting of new Clauses.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I said that interventions must be brief. Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member gave himself away—[Interruption.]—and now he is going away. He gave himself away when he said that he was bringing forward such a Clause on every Bill like this dealing with gas, electricity, hygiene, agriculture or Scotland, with exactly the same provisions. In the main the people he has consulted have not therefore been concerned with detailed management of the Post Office but are revolutionary Socialists, syndicalists, marchers and protesters who may have ideas for revolutionising Britain but who could not run a Sunday school.

We have a unique situation. We are discussing a new Clause which has been signed by 19 hon. Members and presented as revolutionary Socialism vital for the health of Britain, yet not one of those 19 is present. This shows that they do not regard this new Clause as of great priority for Britain or for Socialism.

I have gone through only a fraction of what I ought to say, but time is limited and many other hon. Members want to speak in this debate. I do not want to take an unfair advantage of the opportunity of the good fortune I had in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. This new Clause is revolutionary Socialism which has not been thought out. We have seen two hon. Members who signed the Clause, but now there is none present. They are running away from their responsibilities and their argument as quickly as I hope the Postmaster-General will clearly say that not only do we not approve of this rubbish but we want good management and a progressive go-ahead Post Office in which there will be decision making and service to the public. If he will do that and give a straight answer to his hon. Friend who have been talking nonsense, we shall support him all the way.

Mr. Stonehouse

We have had a debate of over an hour's duration. We have had two lengthy speeches and a number of interesting interventions of some length by at least four hon. Members from both sides of the Chamber. I think it would he appropriate for me to intervene so that other hon. Members contributing to the discussion will be under no misapprehension about the position taken by my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General and me. We have had experience in negotiations with trade unions. My hon. Friend in particular, as he has been doing his job for the past four and a half years, has great experience in this field. It is appropriate that I should express our view on the proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). I am sorry that he is not present at the moment.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

On a point of order. Could we have your guidance, Mr. Speaker? The Minister is intervening to give his view on a new Clause which has been signed by a number of Government Members, but not one signatory is present to hear that intervention. Can you guide the House as to whether this is a sensible time for the Postmaster-General to intervene?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Speaker has many loads on his shoulders, but not one to secure the attendance of Members of Parliament even for discussion of Amendments to which they have given their names. The Minister intervenes when he will. If he rises, Mr. Speaker calls him.

Mr. Stonehouse

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Epping will be back shortly. I expect that his absence from the Chamber will be of short duration.

I thought that it would be useful to intervene now so that other hon. Members, who have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, should be under no misapprehension about the position that I take on the new Clause.

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) who made a very valuable intervention, even if at some unnecessary length. However, I thought that his questions were pertinent. I say that his intervention seemed unnecessarily lengthy, but I thought that he made his points so well and so pungently that it was unnecessary for him to repeat them in the dramatic way that he did. I was convinced that he had some very good points to make within five minutes of him commencing his speech. He had no need to go on for the lengthy time that he did to persuade me at least that he had some good points.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Epping has returned to the Chamber. I should tell him that I agree with many observations put forward by the hon. Member for Cathcart. I think that the questions he asked about the responsibilities of these committees are extremely important, and they are not satisfied by reference to subsection (4), which begs the question and leads me to envisage a sharp conflict of managerial responsibility between the main board of the Post Office Corporation and the management committees which my hon. Friend proposes should be set up.

I should like to go through the details of my hon. Friend's proposal because he does not appear to have considered some of the defective points in it. The new Clause proposes that management committees should be set up within each of 26 areas to be defined by the Minister. I do not recognise the figure 26. It does not correspond to any administrative division of responsibility within the Post Office and it does not correspond to the regions, so I do not see any relevance in it. If the new Clause was accepted we would be stuck with the quite ridiculous figure of 26 areas in which to establish these committees.

I will not repeat all the points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart. I want to take up some new points to which, surprisingly, he did not refer. Subsection (2) indicates that of the members of the committees 50 per cent. will be appointed by the Minister. There are to be 26 areas. This means that 260 individuals will be appointed directly by the Minister to undertake a management job in areas yet to be defined. We are not told how they are to be remunerated. I presume that as they are to give up their time they will be remunerated for this job. Therefore, the Minister will be responsible for appointing a main Post Office Corporation board of a chairman and up to 12 directors and at the same time appointing 260 managers to sit on committees all over the country who may want to make decisions against the decisions of the Post Office board if, under subsection (4), the Post Office board decides to delegate some serious managerial responsibilities to the committees.

If the proposal is accepted, I foresee some serious conflicts between the management committees and the main Post Office board, because its authority and responsibilties would be severely undermined by these various committees.

It is suggested that the committees themselves should elect their chairmen. But the committees are evenly balanced. What if there is no unity of view between the two sides of a committee and they are unable to produce a chairman? The result is complete deadlock. Even if a chairman is elected from a committee, what if the workers' representatives take a narrow sectional view on some questions where workers' interests are directly involved and the management representatives appointed by the Minister take another view? There is a direct clash of opinion, but, because of the equality of representation on the committee, the result will be a simple paralysis of the decision-making process.

If the Post Office is to be run efficiently, it is necessary for the activities of these various management committees to be properly co-ordinated one with another. Is this job to be done by the Post Office Corporation as a whole, or are the management committees to set up their own liaison machinery to ensure that, in their separate and democratic decisions, they are in no way influenced by the overriding management decisions taken by the main board but are operating quite independently of the main board of the Post Office? If that were to be the case, bureaucratic and expensive machinery would have to be set up in order that the work of these various management committees could be co-ordinated.

They might decide to have a national organisation to which they would send representatives to discuss the problems of common interest which involve them all, not only vis-à-vis their responsibilities in the areas but also their relations with the Post Office board as a whole. A national structure would be created. There could even be a national conference of all the committee representatives, which 520 individuals would be entitled to attend.

All this would throw doubt on the ability of the board of the Post Office Corporation to do the job which we are asking it to do. I wonder whether we would be able to persuade men of the right calibre to serve on the board and take over the very wide responsibilities and powers which the Bill gives to the board if they were hampered by a plethora of management committees all over the country acting in the way that my hon. Friend suggests.

The overwhelming objection to my hon. Friend's proposals is that at no stage have they been discussed with the staff sides in the Post Office. At the end of my hon. Friend's speech, I asked him what official discussions there have been, and he acknowledged that there have been none.

We in the Post Office are very proud of our staff relations. Occasionally, they go wrong but, generally, our relations are extremely good. We have some very well-developed staff consultative arrangements, and we want them to be improved even further in the future. If we were to accept my hon. Friend's proposals without any discussion with the staff sides, it would be extremely embarrassing to the consultations in which my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General and I are involved with the staff sides with a view to moving towards an even better relationship between the staff and the Corporation when it is set up.

Mr. Dempsey

Is my right hon. Friend saying that he is opposed to the principle of the workers sharing in the management and administration of the Post Office?

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Stonehouse

I am saying no such thing. I am saying that we are involved in discussion with the trade unions in order even further to improve the consultative arrangements which already exist and which have been fairly successful within the Post Office. We want them to improve and, indeed, a memorandum has been sent to the staff side setting out a great many interesting suggestions which we hope they will consider in the fullness of time and bring back with their considered points of view. I have made suggestions myself in public speeches about the improvement of industrial democracy, and I am anxious that some way should be found of improving staff participation. But that must work both ways, and if the staff participate in the management process they must be prepared to accept responsibility for their actions and not impede the management process and make decision-making slower than it is. We must have staff representatives who will be prepared to act without going back to the branches and having to thrash things out over many months before decisions are made. I have made many suggestions to the staff side about ways in which this could be improved and our discussions could be made abortive if the House accepted new Clause 10.

Mr. Newens

Will my right hon. Friend make clear whether his discussions with the staff envisage workers' control and decision making or whether he is merely talking about consultation? There is a clear distinction between the two ideas. Many of us feel—and this is the policy, I understand, of the Union of Post Office Workers, expressed in its pamphlet—that consultation is not enough.

Mr. Stonehouse

When we have a management structure we must recognise that it is indivisible. We cannot expect to be able to share the management's responsibilities in the complicated way suggested by new Clause 10. So I would put the emphasis on consultation and participation rather than accept—and I do not want to mislead the House on this—that workers' representatives themselves should have a major say in management decisions in the Post Office, because, as the hon. Member for Cathcart said, there are other interests to bear in mind—those of the public, of the taxpayer and of the community as a whole. Those interests are represented by the Post Office Corporation as a whole, which is appointed by the Minister, who is responsible to this House. That is the way in which the interests of the community as a whole are being protected. If a major part of management decision were to be taken by workers' representatives, that principle would be invaded.

There has recently been an interesting and worthy development on the trade union side of the Post Office. An organisation called the Council of Post Office Unions has been set up and this is a welcome linking together of various trade unions in the Post Office which we applaud. I mention this because the organisation is the one that will play a very big part in improving the consultative machinery as I have described it.

Furthermore, there has been a welcome amalgamation between trade unions representing the higher grades in the G.P.O. We are very glad about that because the smaller the number of unions representing the staff in the Post Office, the better it is for the efficient relationships we want to establish. These are very welcome developments and it is in that direction that we can better go rather than accepting an ill-thought-out, ill-considered and badly drafted new Clause.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. For the second time this evening I remind the House that we are on the Report stage of a Bill. There are some 20 or 30 debates ahead of us. Mr. Speaker is anxious to call a number of Members in a debate so as to make a debate a debate. The first two speeches in this debate lasted between them 69 minutes. I hope that the hon. Members will think of their colleagues and make reasonably brief speeches.

Mr. Clegg

The last two speeches absolutely devastated the case advanced by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). It may seem rather superfluous to carry on with that process, but we are compelled to do so because there is nobody on the Government benches who has heard the arguments advanced either by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) or by the Postmaster-General.

Mr. Dobson

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that I have been sitting here all the time listening to this debate?

Mr. Clegg

I hope you will forgive me, but I did not think you would wish to be associated with the remarks of the hon. Member for Epping.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not bring Mr. Speaker into it.

Mr. Clegg

I am sorry, Sir. I seem to be doing a remarkable number of things today. None of the signatories to the Clause other than the hon. Member for Epping has heard the Postmaster-General's reply. It is important to continue the attack, because the hon. Member for Epping and his co-signatories represent a very trendy group. We hear much about participation. The hon. Gentleman himself said that today it is a "with-it" thing. It is indeed. We hear much about industrial democracy. However, an analysis shows that when an idea is put forward it is nothing but wild, wet and woolly.

The Clause contains no hard thinking. It has not been thought out in any detail. Each of the questions which have been put to the hon. Gentleman has been unsatisfactorily dealt with. For example, I ask the hon. Gentleman how many unions were likely to be involved in electing members to the committee. The hon. Gentleman did not know—or at least if he did know he was not telling us. It is essential that we know such details. Under subsection (2) unions are to get together to appoint elected members. That will be a cause of in-built tension; there can be inter-union dispute. We have seen a recent example in relation to the negotiating committee at Fords. There was a joint negotiating committee composed of all the unions, but because it took a simple vote instead of one representing the manpower of the unions the whole thing became completely chaotic and an expensive strike ensued. That sort of tension is just as likely to result from this ill thought out proposal.

Mr. Newens

This is a red herring.

Mr. Clegg

It is not. I want to consider the effects of subsection (2). We are told that a union will elect somebody to the management committee for three years. The hon. Gentleman said that the fact that people were elected for three years would keep them up to the mark. I visualise someone elected by his union attending a meeting of the management committee and then going back to his union and telling the union what had happened and the union instructing him how to vote in the management committee. This could lead to delays of the type of which my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart spoke.

How independent would these people elected from unions be during the three years? As it got nearer to election time, they would be more concerned about what their union thought about the solution to a problem than about the general interest of the whole organisation of the Post Office.

Mr. Newens

This shows a crass lack of ignorance about the way—[Interruption.]—things go on in some of the organisations where this has been tried. The organisation which I referred to was the Co-operative movement. The people there concerned do not behave in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests. I wish the hon. Gentleman would apply himself to the facts.

Mr. Clegg

I confess that on the score of ignorance—

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

May I point out that the case cited by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) is that of the one organisation in the United Kingdom which in the last 20 years, a period of enormous expansion—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have interventions on interventions.

Sir D. Glover

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) was giving way to me. It was not an intervention.

Mr. Speaker

I understood that the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) had given way to the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). Having given way to the hon. Member for Epping, he must be allowed to continue for a time before the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) intervenes.

Mr. Clegg

I am in some difficulty here, Mr. Speaker, because I thought that I had given way to my hon. Friend. However, I will continue my speech for a moment, and then, perhaps, give way to him. I was dealing with the ignorance attributed to me by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens).

Sir D. Glover

Perhaps I may help my hon. Friend in the matter of the Co-operative movement by saying that it is the one organisation which in a period of the largest expansion in our economy—the last 20 years—has gone backwards.

Mr. Clegg

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He has in part anticipated what I intended to say, which was that I was not aware that the Co-op paid the best wages in the areas in which it operates.

I turn now to the difficulties in subsection (3) of the proposed new Clause. The subsection deals with the members who would be appointed by the Minister and a very shadowy group they are. We should have more information about them. According to the subsection they must … have had wide experience of and to have shown capacity in matters concerning services which under this Part of this Act the Post Office has power to provide, or industrial, commercial, professional or financial matters, pure or applied science, politics, economics, technology, administration or the organisation of workers. That is a pretty broad range.

The hon. Gentleman did not tell us what sort of men he had in mind. We were not told, as the Postmaster-General has pointed out, how much they would be paid, or whether they would be full time or part time, or for how long they would be appointed. Would they be appointed for three-year periods? It is very important to know the sort of people who would be put on the joint management committees because, as I understand it, those committees would conduct the day-to-day running of the area, whatever the area might be—

Mr. Taylor

We are not told whether one of the functions would be negotiating with trade unions on wages and working conditions.

Mr. Clegg

We are told singularly little about these mysterious people.

Before we could get people to serve on these committees, and perhaps give up other jobs, we would have to tell them what they were expected to do. We would have the workers, and presumably they would be represented by the unions. We would have people with industrial, commercial and financial experience. Does the hon. Gentleman envisage that such people as postmasters and those in the senior ranks of the Post Office would be

eligible? We get no clear indication of this at all.

The Clause has been singularly ill-thought out. It has left the House in a sort of miasma, trying to think out what the hon. Gentleman is getting at. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart suggested that the hon. Member for Epping was aiming at a revolution. It would be a dull revolution. It is not the sort of Clause which one would defend with flags flying. In fact, it is so miserable a Clause that the hon. Members whose names are on the Order Paper with that of the hon. Member for Epping have so little interest in it that they cannot come here and argue with us. I do not know where they are.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put, That the Proceedings on the Post Office Bill, the Education (Scotland) Bill and on Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Agriculture (Spring Traps) (Scotland) Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Stonehouse.]

The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 169.

Division No. 183.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Albu, Austen Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Alldritt, Walter Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Gregory, Arnold
Anderson, Donald Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Grey, Charles (Durham)
Archer, Peter Davies, Ifor (Gower) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Ashley, Jack de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Delargy, Hugh Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Dempsey, James Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Dewar, Donald Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dickens, James Harper, Joseph
Barnes, Michael Dobson, Ray Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Barnett, Joel Doig, Peter Haseldine, Norman
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Dunnett, Jack Hattersley, Roy
Bidwell, Sydney Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Binns, John Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Bishop, E. S. Eadie Alex Hobden, Dennis
Blackburn, F. Edelman, Maurice Hooley, Frank
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ellis, John Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Boston, Terence English, Michael Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Boyden, James Ennals, David Howie, W.
Bradley, Tom Ensor, David Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Finch, Harold Hunter, Adam
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.) Hynd, John
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.
Brown R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Buchan Norman Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Cant, R. B. Foley, Maurice Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Carmichael, Neil Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Jeger, George (Goole)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Ford, Ben Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Forrester, John Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Chapman, Donald Fowler, Gerry Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Coleman, Donald Freeson, Reginald Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Conlan, Bernard Galpern, Sir Myer Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham. S.)
Crawshaw, Richard Gardner, Tony Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Dalyell, Tam Garrett, W. E. Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Judd, Frank
Kelley, Richard Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Rose, Paul
Kenyon, Clifford Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Morris, John (Aberavon) Sheldon, Robert
Lawson, George Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Leadbitter, Ted Murray, Albert Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Neal, Harold Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Lee, John (Reading) Newens, Stan Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Lomas, Kenneth Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Silverman, Julius
Luard, Evan Oakes, Gordon Skeffington, Arthur
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Ogden, Eric Slater, Joseph
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) O'Malley, Brian Small, William
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Oram, Albert E. Spriggs, Leslie
McCann, John Orbach, Maurice Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
MacColl, James Orme, Stanley Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Macdonald, A. H. Oswald, Thomas Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
McGuire, Michael Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Owen, Will (Morpeth) Taverne, Dick
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Mackie, John Palmer, Arthur Thornton, Ernest
Mackintosh, John P. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Tinn, James
Maclennan, Robert Park, Trevor Urwin, T. W.
Parker, John (Dagenham) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
McNamara, J. Kevin Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Wallace, George
MacPherson, Malcolm Pavitt, Laurence Watkins, David (Consett)
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Wellbeloved, James
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Pentland, Norman White, Mrs. Eirene
Manuel, Archie Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Whitlock, William
Mapp, Charles Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Wilkins, W. A.
Marks, Kenneth Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Marquand, David Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Price, William (Rugby) Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Probert, Arthur Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Mendelson, John Rees, Mertyn Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mikardo, Ian Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Millan, Bruce Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Woof, Robert
Miller, Dr. M. S. Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Robertson, John (Paisley) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Molloy, William Rodgers, William (Stockton) Mr. Alan Fitch and
Moonman, Eric Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Mr. Neil McBride.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Emery, Peter Iremonger, T. L.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Errington, Sir Eric Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Jopling, Michael
Astor, John Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Kaberry, Sir Donald
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Farr, John Kerby, Capt. Henry
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Fortescue, Tim Kershaw, Anthony
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Kitson, Timothy
Batsford, Brian Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Lane, David
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Glover, Sir Douglas Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Berry, Hn. Anthony Goodhart, Philip Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bessell, Peter Goodhew, Victor Longden, Gilbert
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Gower, Raymond Lubbock, Eric
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Grant, Anthony MacArthur, Ian
Body, Richard Grant-Ferris, R. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Gresham Cooke, R. McMaster, Stanley
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Grieve, Percy McNair-Wilson, M. (Walthamstow, E.)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gurden, Harold Maginnis, John E.
Bryan, Paul Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Marten, Neil
Bullus, Sir Eric Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maude, Angus
Burden, F. A. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Mawby, Ray
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Harvie, Anderson, Miss Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hastings, Stephen Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Clark, Henry Hawkins, Paul Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Clegg, Walter Hay, John Monro, Hector
Costain, A. P. Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Montgomery, Fergus
Crouch, David Heseltine, Michael Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Higgins, Terence L. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Dance, James Hiley, Joseph Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Hill, J. E. B. Murton, Oscar
Dean, Paul Hirst, Geoffrey Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Holland, Philip Neave, Alrey
Drayson, G. B. Hooson, Emlyn Nicholls, Sir Harmar
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Hordern, Peter Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Onslow, Cranley
Eden, Sir John Hornby, Richard Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hunt, John Osborn, John (Hallam)
Elliott, R. W. (N c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hutchison, Michael Clark Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh, & Whitby) Ward, Dane Irene
Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Silvester, Frederick Weatherill, Bernard
Peel, John Sinclair, Sir George Wells, John (Maidstone)
Percival, Ian Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Peyton, John Speed, Keith Wiggin, A. W.
Pink, R. Bonner Stainton, Keith Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Steel, David (Roxburgh) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Prior, J. M. L. Summers, Sir Spencer Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Pym, Francis Tapsel, Peter Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Worsley, Marcus
Ridsdale, Julian Temple, John M. Wright, Esmond
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Wylie, N. R.
Royle, Anthony van Straubenzee, W. R.
Russell, Sir Ronald Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
St. John-Stevas, Norman Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley) Mr. Jasper More and
Scott, Nicholas Walker, Peter (Worcester) Mr. Reginald Eyre.
Sharples, Richard Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek

Question again proposed, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Clegg

Before the break, I was talking about the absence from the debate of the main sponsors of the Clause, with the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Epping. I see that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is now present and I regret that he has missed—

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to the Clause and not the absentees or presentees.

Mr. Clegg

I shall certainly come to the Clause. I was about to refer the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale to the magnificent speeches by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart and, although I find it embarrassing to say so, the Postmaster-General. If the hon. Gentleman had been here—

Mr. Speaker

We are discussing a new Clause, not the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot).

Mr. Clegg

I wish we were.

I come to the Clause and the Left-wing intellectual thought which lies behind it. We are told that a joint management committee is to have 50 per cent. of its membership nominated by the Minister, a very shadowy group, and 50 per cent. by the unions. We assume that one of its tasks would be to negotiate wages, pay scales, overtime payments, promotion and so on. With representatives of the union serving on a management committee in that form, great tension would arise between management and the unions, because part of the management would be people nominated by the unions themselves. This sort of conflict is inherent in this ill-thought-out new Clause and makes it a non-starter.

The hon. Member spoke of industrial democracy and of workers having a share in management. If there be anything in that argument, this is not the way to achieve it. The best way to help industrial democracy is to make sure that promotion in the Post Office is clearly open from the very bottom to the top. There, one would get real worker participation—[interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult for the hon. Member to address the House against a background of conversation.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Clegg

I am obliged, Mr. Speaker.

I was saying that, in my view, the best sort of industrial democracy is where the worker can rise up from one grade to another to take part in top management. Many of the leaders of private industry—and, indeed, the nationalised industries—have come up from the shop floor. That is real industrial democracy. When there are at the top, as there would be in the suggested joint management committees, workers taking part in decisions which could adversely affect their own people, there would be, not real participation, but bitterness creeping in, because the men would say, "The chaps we elect from the union boss us around and we become redundant because of their policies". A worse industrial situation would then develop.

I am mindful, Mr. Speaker, of the words with which you preceded my contribution to the debate, and I now conclude. The arguments against the new Clause are overwhelming and have been well demonstrated. If the new Clause represents the thinking of the "Tribune" group or the other sponsors of the Left in this House, it is no wonder that the Labour Party is in such a hell of a state.

Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)

In moving the new Clause, the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) said that he was beginning to wonder whether nationalisation was necessarily Socialism. I would not like to follow him too closely into what is Socialism, but what has always seemed to me to be very odd is the way that hon. Members opposite have automatically assumed that the setting up of these grandiose, monopolistic corporations had much to do with what they imagined to be Socialism.

The hon. Member for Epping made it plain that the intention of the new Clause was to establish worker control, or, at least, half control. Last night, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) said that the idea that there was to be worker democracy or worker control was pure fantasy. He coupled the fantasy with the idea that there were Radicals on his Front Bench. Certainly, the Postmaster-General will not have disproved his hon. Friend's prophecy by the excellent speech he made this evening.

It is a fantasy, but it is a fairly old one. As the hon. Member for Epping has pointed out, the Bill is very much on the same lines—it is virtually identical—as the Bills that were passed by the House during the 1945 Parliament. Indeed, at least once in Committee, when we tried to bring some new points into the Bill, the Postmaster-General repudiated them specifically on the ground that they were new. He proved sometimes to be a very great Conservative and was most eloquent on the virtues of democracy in capitalism on more than one occasion. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has been fully consistent in his repudiation of the new Clause tonight.

What the hon. Member for Epping and his absent supporters have put forward is syndicalism, which is an even older idea than the nationalised corporation which the Bill sets up. It is not quite the same as the pre-First World War syndicalism because it is not revolutionary, and it does not, as far as I know, propose any form of revolution. Similarly, it is only half syndicalism because only half of the people on the committees are to be appointed by the workers.

But what syndicalism means, as the right hon. Gentleman clearly pointed out, is that the industry or service is run for the benefit of those who are taking part in it rather than the consumers? The consumer always comes second according to the ideas put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, and that is an idea which, of course, can never be accepted by those of us on this side of the House. We can well imagine that if the hon. Gentleman's new Clause had been accepted, sooner or later the workers would have decided that they did not like working on Sundays, and so there would have been no telephone service on Sundays, and there would have been many other things of that sort.

However, the most conspicuous silence which there has been during this debate has, of course, been that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson), who is closely associated with one of the main unions in the Post Office. He, very conspicuously, has not given his support to this new Clause. He did not put his name to it. Nor did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall), nor did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden). In other words, this new Clause is not supported by the representatives or members of the Post Office unions in this House.

It is, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) said, a "Tribune" Amendment. It is none the worse for that; "Tribune" is an excellent paper. I see the managing director is here, and I am wondering, since he put his name to the new Clause, whether he would consider running "Tribune" according to these principles.

Hon. Members

Why not?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I would be very interested to hear a debate on "Tribune", but not on this new Clause.

Mr. Gilmour

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, if we are considering the best way of running a service, surely we are entitled to consider whether those who are putting forward the ideas in this new Clause would put them into practice in their own businesses? The very brilliant articles which are printed in "Tribune" are written by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). They are certainly not committee efforts; they are certainly not decided on in consultation with the printers; they are certainly not worked out in conjunction with the type setters or those who sell "Tribune". In other words, there is a complete differentiation of functions. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale is a very good writer, and he does the writing, and the printers are very good printers, and they do the printing; and they make certain that they do not muddle up these functions.

There is an even greater paradox, surely, in this being a "Tribune" new Clause, because here we have the "Tribune" group trying to prescribe by law certain very definite ways in which the unions should participate in the running of the Post Office. This is a very different attitude from that which they take up when it is suggested that the unions should be made in some ways subject to law in the matter of trade disputes. If it is right for the Government to lay down exactly how unions should participate in the management of the Post Office, and how they should be elected, and so forth, then surely, long before that, it would be logical to bring the law into far more fundamental matters concerning—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is the Post Office Bill, and this is a new Clause to it, and we cannot now traverse the whole political field.

Mr. Gilmour

I accept that. On the other hand, the new Clause puts forward a fundamental change in our whole industrial structure and it is a little difficult to consider it taken in isolation. However, it seems to me that there are at least two fundamental inconsistencies in the behaviour of those who support the new Clause.

As the Postmaster-General said, there is much to be said for workers' participation. My hon. Friends and I support that. It could take a variety of forms. Not only is there scope for workers' participation; there is scope for workers' promotion. There is no reason why members of the Post Office board should not come from among those who have served in the Post Office. Therefore, it is all the more surprising that there is a Government Amendment to delete Clause 6(4), which lays down that the chairman and other members of the Post Office board shall be appointed from amongst persons appearing to the Minister to have had wide experience of … administration or the organisation of workers. In its original form the Bill would appear to have encouraged ex-trade unionists to take up membership of the board, but there appears to have been a retreat from that position on Report.

Administration is very different from workers' control, as the President of the Board of Trade has laid down on many occasions—as has the Postmaster-General. When he was asked about it this evening by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), I understood him to say, "I am not saying that we are opposed to the participation of workers in management." He slightly altered it later, but I understood him to say that at first.

In any event, that was very different from what he said in a speech he made at the Fabian Society Summer School on 4th August 1968, when he made one of his best speeches and came down a good deal more firmly in this matter than he did in his intervention. He said: Workers' control is indefensible because it is grossly unfair to the rest of the community whether identified as consumers who buy the product or as taxpayers who provide the capital. The management function is indivisible …. For the Post Office, which is a public service monopoly, I rule workers' control out entirely. It would not be consistent with the public good, nor would it necessarily provide a management seeking efficiency and the best use of a huge publicly provided capital. He went on to say that there was a strong case for workers' participation but he knocked the idea of workers' control very firmly on the head.

The hon. Member for Epping skated ery carefully round all the technical difficulties of his proposal. He did not explain why he had chosen the magic number 26, which does not correspond with any region of the Post Office or any region of a nationalised organisation. He did not say how the difficulties over unions opposed to each other would be resolved, in the matter of election, or how numbers would be worked out—as to how many representatives each union should have. Although we are fully in sympathy with the hon. Member's difficulties and his quest for finding true Socialism, we do not believe that he has found it this evening. Therefore although we sympathise with him, for once we are in full agreement with the Postmaster-General about not accepting the new Clause.

Mr. Alan Fitch (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)

rose in his place and

claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 218, Noes 168.

Division No. 184.] AYES [10.30 p.m.
Albu, Austen Gregory, Arnold Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Grey, Charles (Durham) Molloy, William
Alldritt, Walter Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Anderson, Donald Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Archer, Peter Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hamling, William Murray, Albert
Barnes, Michael Harper, Joseph Neal, Harold
Barnett, Joel Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Newens, Stan
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Haseldine, Norman Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Bidwell, Sydney Hattersley, Roy Oakes, Gordon
Binns, John Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Ogden, Eric
Bishop, E. S. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret O'Malley, Brian
Blackburn, F. Hobden, Dennis Oram, Albert E.
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooley, Frank Orbach, Maurice
Boston, Terence Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Orme, Stanley
Boyden, James Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Oswald, Thomas
Bradley, Tom Howie, W. Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hughes, Roy (Newport) Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hunter, Adam Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hynd, John Paget, R. T.
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Palmer, Arthur
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Park, Trevor
Buchan, Norman Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parker, John (Dagenham)
Cant, R. B. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Carmichael, Neil Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pavitt, Laurence
Chapman, Donald Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Pentland, Norman
Crawshaw, Richard Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Judd, Frank Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lawson, George Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Leadbitter, Ted Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Probert, Arthur
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lee, John (Reading) Rees, Merlyn
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lomas, Kenneth Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Delargy, Hugh Luard, Evan Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Dempsey, James Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dewar, Donald Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dickens, James Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Dobson, Ray McCann, John Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Doig, Peter MacColl, James Rose, Paul
Dunnett, Jack Macdonald, A. H. Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) McGuire, Michael Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Sheldon, Robert
Eadie, Alex Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Edelman, Maurice Mackie, John Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Ellis, John Mackintosh, John P. Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
English, Michael Maclennan, Robert Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Ennals, David McNamara, J. Kevin Silverman, Julius
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) MacPherson, Malcolm Skeffington, Arthur
Finch, Harold Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Slater, Joseph
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Small, William
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Foley, Maurice Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Spriggs, Leslie
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Manuel, Archia Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Ford, Ben Mapp, Charles Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Forrester, John Marks, Kenneth Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Fowler, Gerry Marquand, David Taverne, Dick
Freeson, Reginald Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Galpern, Sir Myer Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Tinn, James
Gardner, Tony Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Urwin, T. W.
Garrett, W. E. Mendelson, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mikardo, Ian Wallace, George
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Millan, Bruce Watkins, David (Consett)
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Miller, Dr. M. S. Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Wellbeloved, James Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
White, Mrs. Eirene Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin) Woof, Robert
Whitlock, William Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Wilkins, W. A. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick Wilson, William (Coventry, S.) Mr. Alan Fitch and
Mr. Neil McBride.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Neave, Airey
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gurden, Harold Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Astor, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Onslow, Cranley
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Osborn, John (Hallam)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Harvie Anderson, Miss Page, Graham (Crosby)
Balniel, Lord Hastings, Stephen Peel, John
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hawkins, Paul Percival, Ian
Batsford, Brian Hay, John Peyton, John
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Heseltine, Michael Pink, R. Bonner
Berry, Hn. Anthony Higgins, Terence L. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bessell, Peter Hiley, Joseph Prior, J. M. L.
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Hill, J. E. B. Pym, Francis
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hirst, Geoffrey Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Body, Richard Holland, Philip Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hooson, Emlyn Ridsdale, Julian
Braine, Bernard Hordern, Peter Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hornby, Richard Russell, Sir Ronald
Howell, David (Guildford) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hunt, John Scott, Nicholas
Bryan, Paul Hutchison, Michael Clark Sharples, Richard
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Iremonger, T. L. Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Silvester, Frederick
Bullus, Sir Eric Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Sinclair, Sir George
Burden, F. A. Jopling, Michael Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, w.) Kaberry, Sir Donald Speed, Keith
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Kerby, Capt. Henry Stainton, Keith
Clegg, Walter Kershaw, Anthony Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Costain, A. P. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Summers, Sir Spencer
Crouch, David Kilson, Timothy Tapsell, Peter
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lane, David Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Dance, James Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Temple, John M.
Dean, Paul Longden, Gilbert Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Lubbock, Eric van Straubenzee, W. R.
Drayson, G. B. MacArthur, Ian Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Eden, Sir John Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McMaster, Stanley Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) McNair-Wilson, M. (Walthamstow, E.) Ward, Dame Irene
Emery, Peter McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Maginnis, John E. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Wiggin, A. W.
Eyre, Reginald Marten, Neil Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Farr, John Maude, Angus Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Fortescue, Tim Mawby, Ray Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Maxwell-Hyslop R. J. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Worsley, Marcus
Glover, Sir Douglas Monro, Hector Wright, Esmond
Goodhart, Philip Montgomery, Fergus Wylie, N. R.
Goodhew, Victor More, Jasper Younger, Hn. George
Gower, Raymond Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Grant, Anthony Morrison, Charles (Devizes) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grant-Ferris, R. Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Mr. Anthony Royle and
Gresham Cooke, R. Murton, Oscar Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Grieve, Percy Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Question put accordingly and negatived.
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