Lords Amendment: No. 74, in page 32, line 32, leave out from "employers" to end of line 34 and insert:
in relation to whom collective bargaining, in respect of such matters as are not dealt with under more extensive bargaining arrangements, is, or could appropriately be, carried on by an organisation of workers or a joint negotiating panel, or partly by an organisation of workers and partly by a joint negotiating panel".
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
It may be for the convenience of the House if with this Lords Amendment we also consider Lords Amendments:
No. 75, in page 33, line 2, at end insert:except in respect of matters which are dealt with under more extensive bargaining arrangements";No. 77, in page 33, line 8, leave out "and"; No. 78, in page 33, line 11, at end insert:and(f) "more extensive bargaining arrangements", in relation to any particular employees or descriptions of employees of an employer, or of two or more associated employers, means arrangements for collective bargaining in respect of matters common to those employees or descriptions of employees and to other employees or descriptions of employees, whether of the same employer or employers or of one or more different employers";No. 92, in page 38, line 8, at end insert:(8) Where the Commission determine, in making a report under this section, to recommend the recognition of an organisation of workers or joint negotiation panel as sole 1594 bargaining agent for a bargaining unit, and it appears to the Commission that there are in existence more extensive bargaining arrangements which will be applicable to the employees comprised or to be comprised in that bargaining unit, the recommendation—No. 93, in page 38, line 10, after "recommended" insert:
- (a) may specify the more extensive bargaining arrangements in question, and
- (b) may be made subject to the reservation that the organisation or panel, at any time when it is recognised as sole bargaining agent in pursuance of the recommendation, shall not have exclusive negotiating rights in respect of matters which are at that time being dealt with under the specified arrangements or which are then the subject of a collective agreement negotiated under those arrangements."(with or without a reservation under subsection (8) of that section)";No. 100, in page 39, line 17, at end insert:(1A) If the recommendation of the Commission is subject to a reservation under section 46(8) of this Act, the order of the Industrial Court shall specify the more extensive bargaining arrangements, as specified in that recommendation, and shall be made subject to the like reservation.I have had it suggested to me that it might also be convenient if the Opposition's Amendment to Lords Amendment No. 92, to leave out from 'question' to end of Amendment, were also to form part of the same debate. I hope that that will perhaps be for the convenience of the House.
The purpose of these Lords Amendments is to deal with an important question which we believe we had adequately covered in the original drafting of the Bill but which, we find subsequently, we have not. The point is this. The bargaining agent provisions of the Bill are limited to single employers, or employers associated only in the financial sense, but in practice over wide areas of industry it is exceptional for all the terms and conditions of a group of employees comprised in the bargaining unit to be negotiated by the agent for that unit. For example, in the typical engineering firm the basic rates of workers in that group, and other terms and conditions of employment, are customarily negotiated nationally between the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Confederation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Unions, but these nationally agreed terms are almost invariably supplemented at company level by further agreements which provide for payments 1595 above the basic rates and also for many other things as well. Clearly, therefore, it seems to us that the bargaining agent provisions ought to be sufficiently flexible to deal with the situation where there may be bargaining at different levels in respect of a particular group of employees.
As I said at the outset, we had thought this was covered in the Bill as drafted, because the C.I.R. has power under Clause 46(7) to make its recommendations subject to any conditions which it thinks fit, and we thought that that covered the point I have just made. We thought that where a satisfactory national arrangement for negotiating terms and conditions of a group of employees was the subject of a recommendation the C.I.R. under that subsection could make it a condition, if it thought fit, that the recommended bargaining agent should accept that it had no negotiating rights in respect of those terms and conditions which were negotiated nationally.
This, as I say, we find is not the interpretation which we believe the courts would put on the Clause in the Bill as drafted originally, and we are now advised that we should make Amendments, and that is what we are doing, so that we can adequately cover this question of bargaining at different levels.
The problem arises primarily because of the tightness of the existing definition in Clause 42. Thus, although the Lords Amendments which we are now discussing are fairly extensive, they really do no more than make explicit what we thought hitherto was implicit in the provisions.
The Lords Amendments basically do two things. First of all, Amendments No. 74 and No. 75 make some necessary modifications to the definition of "bargaining unit" and "sole bargaining agent" in Clause 42.
§ Amendment No. 78 provides a new and I think comprehensive definition of "more extensive bargaining arrangements". Amendments of the existing definitions are necessary to make it clear that the phrase "bargaining unit" relates in the case of a particular group of employees to those terms and conditions of their employment which are not the subject of negotiations in more extensive bargaining arrangements such as national or company-wide negotiations, 1596 and also to make it clear that the sole bargaining agent has no negotiating rights in respect of matters which are dealt with under the more extensive bargaining arrangements.
§ The second thing which the Amendments do is to enable the Commission on Industrial Relations to do what, as I have already said, we thought it had already the power to do under Clause 46(7). Amendment No. 92 inserts a new subsection into Clause 46 empowering the Commission on Industrial Relations to make its recommendations subject to reservation that the recommended bargaining agent shall not have exclusive negotiating rights in respect of matters which are dealt with under the more extensive bargaining arrangements.
§ I want to make it clear that this does not mean that everywhere the C.I.R. finds that there are these more extensive bargaining arrangements in existence it will be compelled to recommend that the sole bargaining agent would have to be subject to reservation. The new subsection will give the C.I.R. discretion—and I think it is right—to decide whether or not more extensive bargaining arrangements should be accorded priority over the negotiating rights of the recommended agent in an individual company or bargaining unit in the discussions.
§ That is important, and needs stressing. We are not wanting to tie the hands of the C.I.R. We are wanting to loosen its hands. It was the Bill as originally drafted which tied its hands, making it impossible for it to make such a reservation. We are making it possible for the Commission to make reservations, but not compelling it to do so.
§ I have to deal with two small consequential Amendments made necessary because of the changes. First of all, it is the purpose of Amendment No. 93 to make reference in Clause 47 to the possibility of this reservation by the C.I.R. under the new subsection to be inserted in Clause 46. Secondly, the new subsection (1A), which is contained in Amendment No. 100 and which is to be inserted into Clause 48 will require the Industrial Court, when it makes an order enforcing a C.I.R. recommendation, to specify in the order the more extensive bargaining arrangements.
§ These, then, are the purposes of these Amendments, the central purpose of 1597 which is to give the C.I.R. discretionary power where it thinks it appropriate—but only where it is appropriate—to protest the primacy of negotiations at the higher level, and it seems to us sensible and in line with traditional British industrial relations practice.
§ I am surprised that the Opposition, in the Amendment they have put down to Lords Amendment No. 92, should apparently be seeking to reject it. Of course, it is true that the Donovan Commission recommended extension of company and plant bargaining, and I certainly accept that. All I would say to balance it is that national level bargaining is accepted on the side of both trade unions and managements, and where it is appropriate it has proved its value over a long period and, I believe, will retain its value even in modern conditions. Where it fails, and where, indeed, it has done seriously in some areas, is where a national body attempts to settle in a standardised national form terms and conditions which simply are not appropriate in the context of varying local conditions, and because they are not appropriate to local conditions they are not acceptable, and therefore, do not carry support and authority and acceptance.
§ Some national bargaining wrongly attempts to do too much—this is what the last few years have shown in some areas—and it is much better that it should be replaced by good, orderly, stable local bargaining at company and plant level. There is nothing in these Amendments which would deny or hold back the movement towards more effective company and plant bargaining.
Mr. Stanley Orine (Salford, West)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that national bargaining tends to set minimum standards? I recall that when I was in the engineering industry, in 1963 the basic rate for a skilled worker was only £10 12s. whereas the average earnings were over £25 a week. In other words, the national bargaining was out of all relation to what was actually happening.
§ Mr. Carr
I accept that point. I am not standing here as the great champion of national bargaining as it has often been practised. I welcomed at the time, and still welcome, the importance which 1598 the Donovan Commission gave to the recognition of the growth of local bargaining which had taken place in its recommendation that this should be further extended. I am not going back on that view in any way. Nor do I believe that these Amendments would hold up such a process.
What I am saying is that because we have in the light of experience, some of it painful, discovered and become increasingly aware of some failings in our traditional system of national bargaining, it would be a mistake to throw the whole thing out of the window as though the whole concept of no value. There was and still is value in it—value from industry to industry and perhaps from time to time. All we are saying in these Amendments is that where the C.I.R. finds that the national bargaining for the setting of minima in pay or conditions is working well and is acceptable to both unions and management, it is sensible that it should be able to protect that national bargaining and limit local bargaining to the things which the national bargaining cannot effectively do. Equally of course where it looks into a case and finds that national bargaining is ineffective, it will be free to say so and to make clear that in future these matters ought to be dealt with at local level.
I believe that these Amendments provide the necessary flexibility which will encourage the development of local bargaining on a sound basis while protecting, where appropriate, and where it is wished for by both sides, the presence of national bargaining for certain issues where it is going on effectively. I am surprised that the Opposition should seek to reject this change—all the more so because their spokesmen in another place took a totally different view.
For example, the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in accepting these Amendments for the Opposition in another place, felt that they did bring something to the Clause which was formerly missing. He went on to say that he could not pretend that he had discovered this missing link for himself but felt that he should have done and wished that he had done. He added that, since it had now been discovered, he welcomed the Amendments and felt that they would improve the present arrangements. That was the view of the Opposition, strongly expressed 1599 in another place—so much so that, without further debate, after Lord Champion's statement the Amendments were accepted without a Division. I hope now that the whole House of Commons, and the Opposition in particular, will consider these Amendments in the spirit in which I have explained them and will feel that they do improve an area of the Bill which I think is probably one of those which, over the years, can be of most value in developing more sensible bargaining structure in industry.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I remind the House, lest some doubt should creep in, that included in this long string of Lords Amendments is No. 92, to which the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and some of our hon. Friends have put down an Amendment, which is also for discussion now.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
Having read the proceedings in another place, I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not open his remarks in the same frank way that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, presented these Amendments in another place. Lord Drumalbyn's speech was in contradistinction to the right hon. Gentleman's today. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that the Government are presenting the Amendments as a result of further careful and deliberate consideration. In fact, the origin of the Amendments lies with the representations made by the employers' associations—in particular, the Engineering Employers' Federation—which, right from the publication of the Consultative Document last year, have repeatedly expressed their concern, both in private and public, about the licence that would be given under his proposals to people at shop floor level in the pursuit of productivity bargains and so on which would apply in the event of industry-wide agreements.
One of our initial points of concern, which the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar with because we have referred to it so often, relates to the exercise by the C.I.R. of certain of these powers which, in this state, are derived via the N.I.R.C. We have repeatedly expressed our objections to the C.I.R. being yoked 1600 to that court. I shall not labour the point again, because I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is in no doubt about the depth and strength of those objections or about our concern that the C.I.R. should be exercising any power at all while it continues to be so unrepresentative of industry as a whole.
§ Mr. Walker
The right hon. Gentleman is referring to the deliberate decision of the T.U.C. to abstain from participation in this work. He has made it clear that he has declared war on the trade unions.
§ Mr. Walker
The T.U.C. is quite entitled to say that, whereas in its mature years it was accepted as almost the fourth estate of the Realm—it had become an integral part of the State—in 1970 it found itself confronted by a hostile State. Can anyone complain if it decides that it will then contract out? It surprises me that the T.U.C. has limited its contracting out of State functions to this action.
§ Mr. Carr
I wonder what the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would say if, for example, the C.B.I. or individual companies refused to co-operate in the law of the land, passed by a democratic Parliament on an issue which had been included in the Labour Party manifesto. Would not he condemn the C.B.I. and the companies for their action?
§ Mr. Walker
The right hon. Gentleman should direct his remarks at Lord Cromer and the gentlemen of the City. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly drawn attention to the difficulties created for the Labour Government by the hostility of the leaders of the class which right hon. and hon. Members opposite represent. Let us hear no more nonsense and hypocrisy about that from the right hon. Gentleman. These Amendments are a straight concession to the employers' associations and put on one side the basic Donovan thesis about the decentralisation of collective bargaining and the unrealities of the formal industry-wide system.
I thought the Royal Commission's Report had shattered once and for all the illusion in which the right hon. Gentleman apparently still persists about the 1601 effectiveness of industry-wide agreements. The Commission said:… the assumptions of the formal system still exert a powerful influence over men's minds and prevent the informal system from developing into an effective and orderly method of regulation".It is sad that the right hon. Gentleman has succumbed to the influence of the employers' federations rather than to the view of the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. Walker
Whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not, he is in these Amendments aligning himself with the employers' federations. This is the effect of these Amendments. He is associating himself with those who cling pathetically to the illusions of the past and who want to hang on to the pretences of a discredited and obsolete system. I thought the right hon. Gentleman welcomed the Royal Commission's Report—indeed I recall the welcome he gave to it—and it is a matter of regret that he now seems to be washing his hands of it.
The informal and fragmented reality of factory bargaining cannot be coordinated into a coherent and rational system by attempting to revert to the past. The growth of plant bargaining in recent years has been an explicit recognition of this fact.
§ Mr. Carr
Did the hon. Gentleman not hear me say when I moved the Amendment that I am in favour of the extension of plant bargaining? Secondly, is he really saying on behalf of his party that he is opposed to all national bargaining? Is this the point of view of the trade union movement? I do not think it is—any more than it was the view of the Labour Party in another place.
§ Mr. Walker
The right hon. Gentle man must recognise that the views put forward on these benches are the views of the Parliamentary Labour Party, not necessarily the view of the trade unions. We claim that because we stand with the trade union movement, we naturally reflect in this House the aims and aspirations of the trade unions and their members, 1602 because we are one and the same, we are part of the same body.
I am accusing the Secretary of State of channelling the forces of change in the wrong direction. We recognise that industry-wide agreements still have some influence and still exist, but they exist in a period of change. There are those who, like the Royal Commission, recognise the forces of change and who can see the direction in which we ought to go; they have put up signposts in that direction. This is a direction in which my right hon. Friends, the Labour Party and I seek, to go. The right hon. Gentleman is turning the signposts round or is turning a blind eye to them. Instead, he has chosen to acquiesce in the demands of the industrial Canutes, the dinosaurs, in an attempt to preserve an unreal and meaningless status quo. It cannot be done. The pretence of the old, centralised bargaining system, based on national negotiations covering a whole industry, has been overtaken by the reality of more meaningful negotiations at factory level.
There is one other point of concern, which is the principal reason that we have tabled our Amendments. This arises directly out of the new subsection (8)(b). It may be that we have misunderstood the situation. It is a complex subject and I am glad that at times we have been given legal guidance by the Solicitor-General. I gather that he is a hieroglyphist in the British Museum—if that is the right word for one who deciphers mysteries—but unfortunately there are not enough Solicitors-General to go round to advise all the shop stewards who will have to follow these provisions. It seems to me that subsection (8)(b) could go beyond the effect I have just been describing. Although it makes provision for the C.I.R. in determining what sole bargaining unit to take into account, the new subsection may give the opportunity to limit the sole bargaining unit in an establishment which falls outside.
Our fear and anxiety is that this power could be used to have a precisely opposite effect from what we should wish to see. In other words, a particular bargaining situation may lead to those seeking to be the sole bargaining agents not being given the power to negotiate. 1603 They would not have the power to raise terms and conditions to a higher level than that which prevails in industry generally.
If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to assure us that this will not be the effect—and I am not saying that this necessarily will be the right hon. Gentleman's intention—then I am afraid we shall have to look carefully at whether we will press the Opposition Amendment to a vote.
§ Mr. R. Carr
If I may have the leave of the House to speak again, I was taken aback for a moment that no other hon. Member opposite wishes to say anything on these Amendments, [HON. MEMBERS: "What are you complaining about?"] I am not complaining. I was merely expecting hon. Members to repeat their well-known speeches on this and other subjects. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."]
I was a little astonished at parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker). He began by accusing me of lack of frankness in not saying that the Engineering Employers Federation and other employers federations have pressed this point. There is no question of lack of frankness. This is well-known public knowledge. I am not concealing anything since this is well known to anybody who takes an active interest in the subject. The engineering employers and other employers have made no secret of their concern about the value of national bargaining in certain areas. I received representations from various employers and various employers' associations. It is not my fault if the trade unions had nothing to say one way or the other to me on this subject. They could have come along, but did not.
I suspect, however, that many trade unions do not share the wholehearted enthusiasm of the hon. Gentleman, and apparently of the Official Opposition, for chucking all national bargaining out of the window. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, this was the impression given by the hon. Gentleman, with unusual vehemence. I will look at his words, and perhaps when I see them in cold print that impression will not be so great, and indeed I hope that is so. Certainly my impression was as I have indicated it. What in fact I said in moving the Amendments was that there is no desire to stop the 1604 move towards more and more effective, orderly and stable local bargaining. We completely support the Royal Commission's analysis in this respect.
But we believe—and I think that many people on both sides of industry believe-that within its limits our traditional national bargaining system, well tried and well valued by trade unions as much as by employers, has a part to play. It may be a different part to play from that we have seen in the past, it may be a lesser part, but in our view it would be wrong so to frame this law about bargaining agents that the C.I.R. was not permitted to allow it to play the part which both sides of industry might wish it to play and which, if allowed, would be to the benefit of the whole of industry, workers as much as management, and of the country as a whole. That, therefore, is the intention.
At the very end of his speech, the hon. Member for Doncaster asked a specific question. I confess that I should have appreciated the opportunity afforded by a speech from the Opposition benches of a few moments' grace during which I could have checked the technicalities of the question, but I shall answer him in this way. I assure him that it is not the intention, as I think he accepts, that the Amendment should have the effect which he suggested; and I do not believe that it will do so.
We have to realise that it is inherent in our whole system, and inherent in the concept of the C.I.R. approach, whether as envisaged originally by the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and her hon. Friends or as now extended within the concept of the present Bill, that we do not tie the hands of the C.I.R. We consider, on balance, that, rather than tie the hands of the C.I.R. too closely, we ought to set up an industrially sophisticated body and leave it to use its common sense in the circumstances and on the merits of each individual case. We do not think it right to tie its hands in detail by statute as to what it can and cannot do. That is the sense of the Amendment. All these Amendments give the C.I.R. more discretion rather than less.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the C.I.R. could not do what he suggests. I have had advice, although, obviously, I have not had a chance to discuss it. 1605 While I have been speaking, I have received definite advice from advisers whom I trust, just as I know the hon. Gentleman trusted them in the past, that the C.I.R. could not do what the hon. Gentleman fears. It is very definitely not our intention that it should be able to do it, and I think I can now add that it will not be able to do it. I think it right that we should give the C.I.R. the discretion which we propose.
I accept that feelings run strong about the Bill, but I hope that all of us will realise that the C.I.R. is there as an industrially sophisticated body, and I regret the present attitude of the trade unions to it. I shall do my best to appoint to that body people of genuine professional skill and knowledge, and recognised as such by all sides of industry. There will remain seats vacant for people from the trade union movement if and when they feel able to participate in it.
I very much hope that the trade unions, whatever view they may take about the Bill and whatever hopes they may have that at some date there may come another Government who will repeal it, will realise that, while the Bill is on the Statute Book, it will be not just in the national interest but in the interests of the trade unions and their members that they should participate in these bodies. They will be welcome. The places will be there for them. Even if the Bill provides a context which they sincerely do not like, I hope that all of us will do what we can to encourage them to participate, for I believe that it will be to their benefit, and not just to the country's benefit, that they should do so.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman invited a contribution or two from our back benches, so I put this point to him now. It is his conception of the C.I.R. which has mucked the thing up. The central idea of a body of this kind brought together has been supported by a good many of us on this side, but in the situation created by the Secretary of State there is unanimous opposition from the entire officialdom of the trade union movement—from the extremities of the Left to the extremities of the Right—to the repressive aspect of the set of circumstances which he has created. It is his concept which has mucked the whole 1606 idea up, yet he seems so disappointed about it.
§ Mr. Carr
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise; nor do I believe that events will prove his suggestion right. I am sure that events will prove, even if I am not absolutely right, that I am more right in my hopes than he is in his fears. But I still say to the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends that, even in the framework of this legislation which they so deeply dislike, the C.I.R. itself is given no direct powers. This is deliberate. I still hope that the vast majority of cases going to the C.I.R. will go through the normal voluntary machinery. That is my hope and my intention. Only rarely, I believe, will the C.I.R. deal with a case which has to go to it through lack of voluntary procedure and willingness via the channels of the National Industrial Relations Court. I hope that those will be but rare cases, but even in those rare cases—this has been deliberately done—the C.I.R. will be denied any teeth, any powers of compulsion. It is still a body of inquiry, report and persuasion, centred very much in the voluntary field.
I hope that, as the months go by, this will come to be realised and that distinguished members from the trade union movement will feel able to serve on it without in any way forgoing their basic dislike and disapproval of the Bill and their hopes that one day it will be repealed.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Is it not plain that a wholly moderate and reasonable trade unionist like Mr. George Woodcock would never have resigned the chairmanship, a job he loves, if he had not been totally convinced by his experience of the working of the C.I.R. that the Bill would damage that work?
§ Mr. Carr
That was not the reason which Mr. George Woodcock gave. Hon. Members on both sides who wish to know his views ought to turn to the actual words which Mr. Woodcock used. Naturally, I have not got them with me at the moment, so I am speaking from recollection, just as the right hon. Lady must be, but my recollection is that, while making clear that he did not support the Bill—he has always made that clear—he made clear also that it was not because of the Bill that he felt he must resign 1607 from the C.I.R. but because of the decision of the T.U.C. in respect of it.
§ Mr. Carr
But it was indirect as far as Mr. Woodcock was concerned. [An HON. MEMBER: "This is nit-picking."] If it be nit-picking, hon. Members are accusing Mr. Woodcock of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Mr. Woodcock made that clear, and I suggest that hon. Members should read the terms of his statement. He made clear that it was because of the attitude of the T.U.C. not because the Bill itself made the task of the C.I.R. impossible, that he resigned.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
The right hon. Gentleman seemed disappointed that we did not give him the benefit of our knowledge of these matters. But this is a huge issue—we all realise how big it is—and the Amendments which he has put to us run in a very narrow groove compared with the magnitude of the subject matter. We do not want to open up the whole subject now. Indeed, you would probably rule us out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if we went into the wider aspects of it.
When the right hon. Gentleman merely generalises on whether there should be national or local bargaining, he does not do justice to the subject. I know of industries in which there never will be local bargaining no matter what the law says. I know of industries in which, in the course of the next few years, national bargaining will cease to exist. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman puts it in the black and white context, he is not doing justice to a huge issue.
I can understand the suspicions and anxieties which have been aroused in my hon. Friends by certain advances by the Engineering Employers Federation. It seems that, in the engineering industry, which to my knowledge has had local bargaining for the last 40 years, it is putting the clock back if those same employers are now emphasising the need to keep national bargaining as the premier structure within that industry. The preservation of national bargaining, as it has been preserved, has done a lot of harm, especially in some sections of engineering which are causing the most trouble.
1608 I can look back a long way on these matters. For instance, I believe that the problems in the motor car industry stem from the fact that it tried to adapt itself to national bargaining, which has nothing to do with the production of motor cars. We know, especially in engineering, that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sal-ford, West (Mr. Orme) said, national bargaining has been looked upon as the way to establish minimum basics.
§ Mr. Lee
But this presupposes that there will be superimposed a payment by results system. I have always felt that where we went wrong in the car industry was in trying to add to a pretty low basic rate a payment by results system. This is nonsense, as the Minister will probably agree. It was because we were all hog-tied by the national bargaining system that many of the troubles which we have since experienced in that one industry have come about.
I know the right hon. Gentleman well enough to appreciate that he would not wish to preserve a national structure which presupposed that it went wrong locally the moment we attempted to apply it. It is sad to see any kind of industry in which that can happen being limited in its ability to go forward to a negotiation which can get rid of much of the structure which has caused these problems in the past.
I thought how remarkable it was that Donovan was so out of date. We appear to be told that it is a good thing to have local bargaining. Some of us were indulging in factory bargaining 30 years ago, long before the issue became a question whether it should be done nationally or locally. I was on national committees looking after national bargaining at the same time as I was conducting factory negotiations which, in many ways, superseded national bargaining.
If the right hon. Gentleman is to take this to the logical point of saying that, for instance, in the coal mining industry we want now to recreate district bargaining, he will have a holocaust on his hands. Years ago, the question of district bargaining in the coal mining industry was the source of a huge number of strikes. I have no authority to speak for the union concerned, but I am sure that it would not accept any idea of returning 1609 to the district bargaining which it hated so much. Who could believe that, for example, in the railway industry, there could be local bargaining? The whole thing just would not stand up.
The problem facing the right hon. Gentleman is that it is not possible in legislation to lay down a structure which is applicable to all these varying industries. I hope that in his discussions with industry he will keep this point very much in mind.
§ Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
I have been asked to reply for the Opposition.
When the Secretary of State spoke a second time, with the leave of the House, he spoke with all the pain of a kindly uncle who has been offended because some refractory nephew has refused a present which has been sent to him. The reason that the trade unions have not cooperated with the C.I.R. is. that it is inextricably linked to the working of the Industrial Court, to the imposition of damages, and to the legal paraphernalia and proceedings which they find so repugnant and which most sensible observers believe will not be helpful to the improvement of industrial relations. It is for that reason that we have the Amendment to Amendment No. 92.
If, when he opened the debate, the right hon. Gentleman was speaking about the inter-relationship between local and national bargaining, if he was speaking in the context of a voluntary system without the imposition of courts, orders and proceedings for damages for unfair industrial practice, his remarks would have been absolutely impeccable. But the proposal which he is putting before the House is that the Commission should be able to exclude from a sole bargaining agent arrangement certain matters to be negotiated at national level. That is good enough. Indeed, in our Amendment to Amendment No. 92 we say that the Commission may specify the more extensive bargaining arrangements in question. But if we accept the rest of the Amendment, it means that the process of law can follow a union which tries to negotiate a matter which has been reserved in which it does not have exclusive negotiating rights. Such a union could find itself brought before the court for damages for an unfair industrial practice. These proposals taken on their own 1610 are unexceptionable; it is linking them with the legal paraphernalia of the court which the trade union movement finds unacceptable. That is why, at the appropriate stage, we shall divide upon our Amendment.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I apologise for not having been in the House in the last few minutes. I thought that it might be worth going to the Library, in view of the exchange which took place between my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), to look into that matter. I have been to the Library and been able to find, in The Times of 26th March, the full reasons stated by Mr. Woodcock for his resignation as Chairman of the C.I.R. The report, by Mr. Michael Thomas, states:Mr. Woodcock made it clear yesterday, both in his letter to Mr. Carr and in a public statement, that he would not have resigned only because of the functions assigned to the C.I.R. by the Industrial Relations Bill. It was the trade union boycott that had decided him.He had hoped that when the Bill became law most references to the C.I.R. would be by the consent of the parties and not require the use of compulsory provisions. But to help employers and unions in voluntary reform"—[Interruption.] I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to listen, because this is important. It gives the lie to the suggestion by the right hon. Lady that Mr. George Woodcock resigned because of the terms of the Bill. He did not.
I will repeat that last passage so that it may sink into the consciousness of hon. Gentlemen opposite:He had hoped that when the Bill became law most references to the C.I.R. would be by the consent of the parties and not require the use of compulsory provisions. But to help employers and unions in voluntary reform the C.I.R. needed their assistance and co-operation.From now on, by the decision of the special Trades Union Congress last week, there would be no union co-operation. To extend their boycott to all the activities of the C.I.R., Mr. Woodcock said, was to assumed 'comprehensive guilt from limited association'.I would have thought it was obvious from that passage that Mr. George Woodcock was impliedly criticising the special meeting of the T.U.C. for its decision in this matter and making it plain that he was not resigning because of the contents of the Bill.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. Gentleman ought to be 1611 aware that on his appointment Mr. Woodcock gave an interview in which he referred to the C.I.R. as the greatest advance in industrial relations in his lifetime, and that during that same interview he said that he was opposed to the principle of legal enforceability. He repeated that statement, and the reason for his resignation is clear. It was that he objected to legal enforceability being imposed on the C.I.R.
§ Mr. Waddington
I should have thought that what mattered in the context of this argument was what Mr. Woodcock said at the time of his resignation, not what he said at the time of his appointment. What he said at the time of his resignation is apparent from that report in the Press.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us the reasons for the resignations of Commissioners Paynter, Allen and Flanders?
§ Mr. Waddington
I thought that I was rather astute in dashing out of the Chamber to get the report from which I have just quoted. If the hon. Gentleman will give me another five minutes, I shall see whether I can get some more reports.
§ Mr. Walker
Not only did Mr. George Woodcock resign because of the Bill, but Commissioners Paynter and Allen made it clear that they were resigning because of the introduction of this legislation.
§ Mr. Waddington
I was merely dealing with the reasons for Mr. George Woodsock's resignation. He did not resign beat use of the Bill.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Before we conclude the debate on this matter, may I thank the hon. Gentleman for leaving the Chamber in order to get a report of what Mr. George Woodsock said. It completely vindicates the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), and it is a good thing that that is on the record.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
This is a clarifying Amendment. Its purpose is to clarify the definition of a joint negotiating panel, that is, a body consisting of representatives of two or more organisations of workers. The purpose is to ensure that the definition of a joint negotiating panel is not limited to those panels which are authorised to enter into legally enforceable agreements. It was never the intention to make the definition so narrow, but that could possibly be the effect of the paragraph as it is drafted.
What we want to ensure is simply that a body is a joint negotiating panel if it can commit any organisations of workers represented on the panel as if those organisations of workers were a direct party to any agreement reached by the panel. The Amendment will ensure that even if joint negotiating panels are only authorised to enter into agreements which are binding in honour only they will fall within the definition of "joint negotiating panel".
We feel that this is clearly a sensible Amendment, and we hope that it will be accepted.
§ The Amendment is necessary, and the Government have belatedly recognised that because one can hardly conceive of any joint negotiating panel which could be vested with the power to enter into binding collective agreements. As the Clause stood it would have included, and restricted inclusion to, panels vested with those powers. That would have been a nonsense, and the Government have recognised that.
§ Paragraph (d) presumed far too much, and now the reality is recognised by the hon. Gentleman, by implication, in the Amendment. The reality is that few, if 1613 any, collective agreements will be made in circumstances where the parties intend them to be binding. The Government know that from yesterday's debate. All that they have imported into the law is a preliminary point in almost every set of negotiations, whether the agreement should or should not be binding, and by this they have changed the whole process of collective bargaining. But we went over that pretty thoroughly yesterday. To have left the original wording would have been to ignore reality.
§ Because it is always pleasant to see the Government come to their senses, even on a narrow point such as this, we do not intend to divide the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.