HC Deb 29 April 1971 vol 816 cc696-8
16. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is now satisfied with the working of the Commission on Industrial Relations; and if he will make a statement.

22. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he has now taken to fill the chairmanship and the trade union vacancies on the Commission on Industrial Relations.

38. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will name the present full-time members of the Commission on Industrial Relations.

43. Mr. John D. Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what appointments he has now made to the Commission on Industrial Relations since June, 1970.

Mr. R. Carr

The present full-time members of the Commission on Industrial Relations are Mr. George Woodcock and Mr. Leslie Blakeman. Further appointments, including that of a successor to Mr. Woodcock as Chairman, are under urgent consideration.

The Government attach great importance to the work of the C.I.R. in promoting the voluntary reform of industrial relations and will continue to give it every support.

Mr. Bidwell

In view of the announced intention of Mr. George Woodcock to retire from the chairmanship of the C.I.R., because of his intense dislike of the Industrial Relations Bill, and since the other members of the Commission are known in the past to have opposed penal sanctions, and having regard to the role of the C.I.R. in the forthcoming legislation and the policy of non-co-operation adopted by the T.U.C., how does the right hon. Gentleman expect to man this body in future?

Mr. Carr

The hon. Gentleman should, for the sake of accuracy, read the statement which Mr. Woodcock made on his resignation, because, while he made it clear that he did not like the legislation, he also made it clear that the reason for his resignation was not the legislation but the decision of the T.U.C. to refuse to cooperate, which is very different. I shall appoint a new chairman and new members to the Commission. I shall make sure that, within the statutory number allowed by the Bill, there is ample room for good trade unionists to join the Commission as soon as they are ready. I refuse to believe that trade unions will for long damage the interests of their own members, let alone fail to participate in legislation which is for the benefit of the whole country, because that is not the sort of attitude for which the trade unions have usually been well known.

Mr. Walker

Is it not clear that the Commission is now literally a one-man band and that it is probably the first casualty of the Secretary of State's noxious Bill? In view of the very heavy dependence of the Bill on the role of the Commission, is it not clear that these resignations have probably done more than the combined efforts of the T.U.C. and the Parliamentary Labour Party to kill the Bill?

Mr. Carr

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the combined efforts of the Parliamentary Labour Party and of some elements in the T.U.C. will not succeed in damaging the national interest by killing the Bill. I repeat that I do not believe that the trade union movement, which has a long history of responsibility behind it, will for long continue to refuse to co-operate in an organisation which is not only in the national interest but the activities of which have been and will still be very much to the benefit of trade union members throughout the country.

Mr. John D. Grant

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it will be virtually impossible to get people of independent standing in industrial relations, let alone trade union members, to serve on the Commission? Is not the Commission a ghost of the body which the right hon. Gentleman's policies have destroyed as an effective force in industrial relations for the future?

Mr. Carr

It is a ghost which will soon be seen to have rather substantial form.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that whoever the chairman is eventually, he will not select him from among Ministers, of either party, who have failed in the House?

Sir G. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Lewis

Will he also ensure that he does not go to Securicor for someone to do the job?

Mr. Carr

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall be as careful to avoid appointing failed Members as failed Ministers. I shall look as carefully as I can for someone well qualified to do the job.

Captain W. Elliot

Is it not rather odd that we should today hear the Opposition Front Bench spokesman talking about killing the Bill when during the wind-up speeches on the Third Reading the official Opposition spokesman said that, in the unlikely event of the Labour Party getting back to power, it would not kill the Bill?

Mr. Carr

I think that there are a lot of inconsistencies and improbabilities about attitudes towards the Bill. One of the certainties, I believe, is that the Bill will become law and will accumulatively do great good to the country and will remain an essential feature of our institutions.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously telling the House that Mr. Woodcock resigned from the Commission as a result of opposition to the T.U.C.'s position? Will he not confirm the truth, namely, that it was an act of solidarity with the T.U.C. which made him resign?

Mr. Carr

I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said to his hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), that Mr. Woodcock should speak for himself in this matter, and he did speak for himself in a very carefully worded statement which I suggest the hon. Gentleman should read.