The Deputy Chairman
The next Amendment selected is No. 696, in page 29, line 25, leave out from second 'rights' to the end of line 26.
§ Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)
Under protest, I do not move this Amendment.
Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
The Deputy Chairman
I should remind the Committee that it would be appropriate to discuss with Clause 41 new Clause No. 15, headed "Reference to Commission of request by trade union for recognition",.—(1) Where it appears to the Secretary of State that an employer or group of associated employers has not complied with a request for recognition made by or on behalf of one or more trade unions, or has failed to honour recognition previously given and has been requested to restore that recognition, the Secretary of State may, after complying with subsection (3) of this section, refer that request to the Commission if he is of the opinion that it is expedient to do so.(2) Any such request for recognition as is mentioned in the preceding subsection—
- (a) may be a request for recognition either in respect of all the employees of the employer or group of employers or in respect only of one or more descriptions of those employees, and
- (b) whether it relates to all those employees or only to one or more descriptions of them, may a request either for recognition generally or for recognition in respect of one or more particular matters and (in either case) may be a request for recognition at all levels (whether national, regional or local) or for recognition at one or more such levels.(3) Before referring any request to the Commission under this section, the Secretary of State shall give notice of the proposal—
- (a) to the employer (or, if more than one, to each of the employers) to whom the request was made and to the trade union or trade unions by or on behalf of which it was made, and
- (b) to the General Council and the Confederation; and, if any of them offer any advice with respect to the proposal, shall take that advice into consideration.(4) Where a request for recognition is referred to the Commission in accordance with subsection (1) of this section the Commission shall enquire into the request and shall report to the Secretary of State along with any recommendation which they may wish to make, and on such a report being made to him, the Secretary of State may, if he thinks fit, order the employer or employers to whom the request was made to recognise the trade union or trade unions to the extent specified in the order; and where such an order has been made by the Secretary of State the recognition prescribed in the order shall be an implied term of every contract of employment between the employer or employers and any employee for whose benefit that recognition is intended.(5) For the purpose of assisting the Commission in their examination of any question referred to them under this section the Commission may, if they think fit, take one or more ballots of employees appearing to the Commission to be employees to whom the question directly relates and the Commission shall take account of the results of any such ballot in arriving at their conclusions on that question.(6) In this section any reference to the recognition of a trade union by an employer shall be so construed as to include the taking by the employer of all such action in connection with the carrying on of relevant negotiations with the trade union as might reasonably be expected to be taken by an employer ready and willing to carry on such negotiations; and any reference to recognising a trade union to any particular extent shall be construed accordingly.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
In opposing Clause 41 and the subsequent Clauses dependent upon it, we are seeking to replace it with new Clause 15. Clause 41 introduces, for the first time in British industrial relations, the 321 concept of the bargaining agency. Without pre-empting the debate on following Clauses, it is essential to say something about what is involved here.
An application can be made to the Industrial Court by one or more trade unions, an employer or the Secretary of State. It is interesting and significant that, whereas a trade union can apply only for a trade union or a joint panel of unions to be the sole bargaining agent, an employer or the Secretary of State may apply for any organisation of workers. In practice, "any organisation of workers" could mean an unregistered trade union, but it could equally mean that an employer or the Secretary of State could apply for a house union, a company union or a similar organisation, which could seriously affect the bona fide union. I suspect that right hon. Gentlemen opposite intend that it should do just that.
The Industrial Court can refer the question to the C.I.R. which in turn must transmit its proposals to the Industrial Court, and so on. From the moment that the application is made—this can be used by employers—it is unlawful for a genuine union to take industrial action about recognition. The situation can be made worse, if what we hear is true, because the Government replied to a question in another place that there will be a special register of professional associations which can have access to the Industrial Court to seek exclusive recognition. Lord Windlesham said in the other place, in reply to a Question from Lord Janner:… a number of professional associations have made representations to the Government, and after consideration of those representations it has been decided to introduce an Amendment to the Industrial Relations Bill in another place which will enable professional associations which have a negotiating function to be placed on a special register and thereby benefit from all the privileges accorded to trade unions by the Bill. The Charity Commissioners may feel that it would be desirable to wait and see in what form the legislation goes on the Statute Book before deciding about the position of those professional associations which are registered as charities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lord, 28th January, 1971; Vol. 314, c. 1061.]My hon. Friends and I have not yet seen the Amendment, but it is very interesting that this point was made in the other place. We are entitled to know precisely what is the position. If there is to be a 322 special register which allows the professional associations to have the rights or privileges accorded to trade unions, that is tantamount to making trade unionism unlawful for many workers. It will cause a great deal of bitterness amongst trade unions, especially those which are trying to organise amongst the professional groups.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
Does my hon. Friend agree that this makes a nonsense of the closed shop argument advanced by the Government?
§ Mr. Heffer
I certainly agree. The Government must tell us precisely what the position is.
If under this procedure only one union is granted recognition as a bargaining unit, members of other unions will have to resign and join the union recommended by the C.I.R. It is all very well for Ministers to say, as they did the other day, that workers can belong to two unions, but that is not a recognised principle within the trade union movement. A man belongs to one union or the other. The Government are creating a new situation. If men did not join the union that is accepted as the sole bargaining agency, they would become non-unionists. Under those circumstances, the Commission on Industrial Relations, under the Bill, could overturn a T.U.C. disputes committee decision based on the Bridlington principle No. 5.
Hon. Members opposite should understand precisely what is involved. They are saying that they want to strengthen trade union authority and the responsible trade unionists. Apart from anything else, the lengthy procedures outlined in the Clause are in no way conducive to speedy solutions to problems of recognition and so on. They will not help the trade unions involved. It is suggested that we could have a ballot on top of the reference from the Industrial Relations Court to the C.I.R., and then a ballot, back again to the Industrial Relations Court, and so on. The whole structure is incredibly complicated and totally unnecessary. It is quite clear that the complicated procedure proposed by the Government would not give any real aid to the unions which are trying to gain recognition from reactionary employers. 323 It would create break-away unions. Workers who are temporarily in dispute with their union could seek a reference to the C.I.R. In the United States there are multitudinous groups of unions as bargaining agencies all over the country, not only in the same industry but often in the same towns and within the same companies. This creates utter confusion in the trade union movement.
The Clause is a recipe for industrial chaos and will lead to Dutch auctions of unions competing with one another for membership. That is not industrial common sense. Union rivalry will develop where it does not exist; unions which have lived together for years, which have refused to poach from each other and have abided by the Bridlington Agreement, could begin to score off each other. If that is the Government's intention, I do not understand how they can say at the same time that they believe in responsible trade unionism. This is the very opposite of responsible trade unionism. It could lead to the sort of bitterness and rivalry that exists among certain American trade unions, with the Teamsters trying to score off the U.A.W., the U.A.W. trying to score off the electrical workers, and so on. Perhaps that is what the Government want. Perhaps they want the trade unions to be divided in that way, but it is not acceptable to the trade union movement.
The Bridlington Agreement has helped not only the unions but the employers. In the past 30 years the T.U.C. has dealt successfully with more than 1,000 interunion disputes through the application of the Agreement. Under the Government's proposals we could become involved in Dutch auctions, the very opposite of solving the problems as they are now solved under the Bridlington Agreement.
The C.I.R. established by my right hon. Friend, which has done a first-class job, would lose its rôle of persuasion and promoting good practice. It would become very much the instrument of the Industrial Relations Court, rather than itself sorting out the problems. In Clause 43(3) we find that the specifications will be laid down by the Court and not the C.I.R. This again indicates a subordination of the C.I.R.
324 5.30 p.m.
A further point that requires making is that, after an application under Clause 51(1), after an order of the National Industrial Relations Court under Clause 51(2), (3), (4) or (6), and after any recommendation of the C.I.R. under Clause 51(5), an unfair industrial practice can apply, and can apply for two years. I stress again that, if a house union were to be recommended by the C.I.R., a genuine bona fide trade union could not obtain recognition for at least two years. For this and many other reasons which I have not been able to bring out for lack of time, we reject Clause 41 and wish to put new Clause 15 in its place.
New Clause 15 would, firstly, give the Secretary of State a right, after consultations with the employers and the trade unions—that is, with the T.U.C. and the C.B.I.—to refer a case of recognition to the C.I.R. I stress that it is recognition that is involved. This is a very important point indeed. Secondly, the recognition issued could be for one or more unions. Thirdly, after the C.I.R. had studied the situation and reported to the Secretary of State, then, and only then, he could issue an order to the employer to recognise the union or unions. This is in line with the proposals made in my right hon. Friend's Bill, which unfortunately we did not pass because of the election. It is in line with the fact that the T.U.C. would, of course, be involved at all stages, as would the employers' organisations. We also suggest in new Clause 15 that there could be a ballot of workers and that this would have to be taken into account by the C.I.R. when arriving at its conclusion.
But these proposals do not follow those of the Government, which are all within the legal framework laid down on the basis of the Industrial Relations Court. We believe that our proposals are a constructive alternative to those being put forward by the Government. We recognise that there are problems of recognition. That is clear. We know that certain employers refuse to accept the elementary principle in this modern age that the trade union movement should be recognised, that unions should be recognised as a basis for proper voluntarily negotiated collective agreements. We can give example after 325 example of employers who refuse recognition to the trade union movement. There was a bitter example in Stockport, where a gigantic battle was waged for two years in order to gain trade union recognition. So we accept the fact that there are problems of recognition and that some employers are intransigent and seek to avoid recognition of trade unions.
In our proposals, we equally seek to avoid the need for workers in this modern age to take strike action in order to receive trade union recognition. We believe that, in these modern days, it is totally unnecessary that they should have to do so, and that is why we put forward our proposals. What we are seeking to do is to maintain the important voluntary principle, which is in contrast with the complicated legal framework which the Government propose. Our proposals seek to strengthen and improve the work of the C.I.R., and that again is entirely different from the Government's proposals, hemmed in as they are by the Bill's legal framework. Therefore I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against Clause 41, and equally—I am not sure whether we can do so under the rules of the House—to vote for new Clause 15 if we have the opportunity, because it is a sensible, sound and constructive alternative to the Government's proposals.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I find myself in a good deal of agreement with a number of things said by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer). I want to raise a number of points which have emerged from what has been said. This takes us back to Clause 11 (3), which says that certain things follows in relation to an agency shop if a trade union is recognised by the employer as having negotiating rights. In Clause 41, we find that "negotiating rights"… means rights, recognised by an employer or by two or more associated employers, to participate, on behalf of all or some of the employees …in regard to collective agreements. What we do not have in the Bill is any means by which one can ensure that an employer will recognise. Therefore it seems to me, both in relation to the agency shop, where this is one of the gateways which have to be crossed, and in relation to the recognition of a sole bargaining agent, 326 there is a necessity to secure the right for recognition.
I concur in the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will not be embarrassed by that. I have had in my constituency a case in an engineering works where the union claimed that a majority of the employees wished it to represent them. The employers took the view that this was not a correct assessment of the situation and refused to recognise the union. The only course open to the union was to call a strike in order to secure recognition. I agree that in this day and age we should be more civilised about this.
In our original "Fair Deal at Work" proposals, we talked about providing a basis for a vote to decide whether a union should have negotiating rights. I recognise that the Bill, in relation to the sole bargaining agent, is designed to deal with the conflict situation between two unions, and I support its proposals in that connection. But where in the Bill is there power for a union to call for a ballot to show an employer that it has a majority of workers in the plant? I am thinking of the situation in which there is no conflict as to which union should be recognised and where there is no need to go to the C.I.R. for the boundaries to be drawn and no need to go to the Industrial Court. I am considering a situation in which there is clear indication that the majority of the employees support a certain union and want it to represent them and which should, therefore, be given recognition by the employer.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
On a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but surely all the arguments, from both sides of the Committee, are directed to the proposals on the recognition of sole bargaining agent, which is Clause 42. I understood that we were taking Clause 41 which relates to bargaining structure.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Further to the point of order. I was about to sit down but I must say that my hon. Friend will have noticed that among the things listed as definitions here is the definition of negotiating rights. The point that I am 327 making is that there is insufficient basis for securing those outlined in this Clause.
§ Mr. Douglas-Mann
I hope that you will guide me as to what is and what is not in order, Mr. Deputy Chairman.
I want to support the new Clause and to comment on those parts of the Bill of which Clause 41 forms an essential ingredient. These are not only the most revolutionary, perhaps I should say counter-revolutionary, parts in the Bill, but they are also revolutionary in English law. We knew before the Bill was presented that it would contain provisions to make collective agreements legally binding. However, until the Bill appeared, I think all of us had assumed that those agreements were to be agreements to which the parties, through trade unions, had assented. Nothing in either the Conservative Party manifesto or, "Fair Deal at Work" in any way indicated that we should be getting collective bargaining agreements made by sole bargaining agents who had been appointed under the provisions of the Clauses we are now considering and which would be binding on members of trade unions who had had no part in the negotiation of those agreements.
Clauses 41 to 50 provide for an application to be made by either a trade union or an employer for the appointment of a sole bargaining agent. The court must refer that to the Commission and the matter can then be settled at any stage by agreement. When the Commission reports back to the court it has to give notice to those who would be affected by it. That is under Clause 44(2).
There is no provision in the Bill for any notice to be given to the unions whose members are likely to be affected, even in a situation in which an employer is pressing either for a staff association, a tame company union, to be appointed as the sole bargaining agent or in which an application is made by an employer or by a trade union which has made a satisfactory bargain for its own members with the employer, for that union to be appointed as sole bargaining agent. There is no provision in the Bill which would prevent a union representing 51 per cent. of the employees in a firm or industry 328 being appointed as the sole bargaining agent.
There is not even any duty on the Commission to make sure that the unions whose members are likely to be affected would be given notice of the proposal. The Commission is required to satisfy itself that any proposal put forward would promote a satisfactory and lasting settlement, but there is no provision for the unions to be given any notice, let alone for them to make representations to the Commission or the court.
It may be extravagant to suppose that the Commission would make a recommendation to the court when it knows that 60 per cent. of the employees affected belong to one union and 40 per cent. to another, but there are many more marginal situations in which, without greater protection than we have in the Bill as it stands, there is a great danger of the Commission making a recommendation to the court which could produce an absolutely disastrous situation. There could be a situation in which one union has a minority of members with interests quite different from those of the majority and that minority union interest could be wholly overridden by the provisions of the Bill.
What is of even greater importance is not so much the majority opinion putting itself forward or being put forward but the employer putting forward a staff association, a tame company union. We have had situations, for example, in the banks, in which a staff association was for a long time the major "union". Almost any retail organisation in which the branches are split up throughout the country carries the danger of having a staff association being promoted within it as a sole bargaining agent. It will be almost impossible, once a sole bargaining agent has been established—without the Commission even having heard the representations which the unions would have sought to make—to upset that arrangement and the staff association will remain the bargaining agent until the signatures of 20 per cent. of the, often very widely scattered, employees affected can be collected.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
On a point of order. May I reinforce what has been said by my hon. Friend the 329 Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). It seems to me, listening to the debate and reading Clause 15, that it should be taken in conjunction with Clause 42. Clause 41 is simply a definition Clause with an interpretation of various parts. What hon. Gentlemen opposite are debating are the terms laid down in Clause 42 and in new Clause 15.
The Deputy Chairman
The Committee will be aware that new Clause 15 is being taken with the Motion that Clause 41 stand part of the Bill, and it is in order to discuss them.
§ Mr. Cooper
Then may we take it that we can discuss Clause 42 in the same context, because that is what is happening?
The Deputy Chairman
We are at present discussing Clause 41 with new Clause 15, and I think that we should be wise to adhere to that.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Further to that point of order. This is a difficult matter. The Chair has referred to the new Clause. It is not compatible with the interpretation Clause in the Bill. If that new Clause were inserted in place of the interpretation Clause it would make a nonsense of this part of the Bill. What my hon. Friends have said is prefectly right. I appreciate that the Chair has to make the selection, but in this case the selection as it is, without some reference to the next Clause, would make a nonsense of the Bill.
The Deputy Chairman
The hon. Member will appreciate that the Chair has made the selection and I have called that selection, which is Clause 41, with which new Clause 15 can be discussed. This is what we should adhere to.
§ Mr. Douglas-Mann
The provisions introduced by new Clause 15 are infinitely superior to those already in the Bill. Those existing provisions, particularly to do with the sole bargaining agent mean that there are loopholes which provide opportunities for enormous abuses. Many of my hon. Friends have extensive experience in situations in which unionism is strong. Although I have some experience of such situations, I have even more experience of situations in which the trade unions are weak and seeking to establish themselves.
330 My fear is that, as these provisions stand the trade unions will find it almost impossible to function properly in situations where unions are not yet established. A sole bargaining agent will have been appointed, either by the employer having made a bargain favourable to himself with a trade union, which is favourable only to the members of that union, to the exclusion of other workers, or to the exclusion of the members of unions representing workers likely to be affected at a later stage or to the exclusion of members belonging to a more aggressive union which might seek to recruit members in that industry. This is a real problem in the areas in which unionism is very weak and wage levels low.
An employer on a construction site might make a bargain at an early stage of the job and appoint one particular union or his own staff association as sole bargaining agent. At that time he has a relatively small number of employees and he can get their approval or, if necessary, buy their approval, to the appointment of that union or association as sole bargaining agent. Once that union is so established, the tradesmen and craftsmen who come on to the site later, and whose unions will not even have been given the opportunity of making representations when the Commission is considering whether to appoint a bargaining agent, will have no opportunity to make their case. An even graver situation arises with banks and retail trade distribution.
Whatever may happen in the votes which we shall be taking later, I hope that the Government will reconsider those parts of the Bill which leave so many loopholes for abuse and make it possible for agreements to be made for sole bargaining agents to be appointed when the unions and men most likely to be affected are not even informed of them. The entire procedure envisaged in these Clauses is so unsatisfactory that I hope that the Committee will support new Clause 15.
§ The Solicitor-General
The Committee at least approaches the debate on these two matters—the provisions set out in Clause 41 and the alternative proposals in new Clause 15—with an important declaration of principle from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). He told the Committee that he 331 recognises that, in pursuit of recognition disputes, strike action is totally unnecessary.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I am sorry to press my right hon. and learned Friend, but surely new Clause 15 cannot be an alternative to Clause 41. It is an alternative to Clause 42.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ The Solicitor-General
I have just given way, and I am rising to deal with the point put by my hon. Friend—if I may be allowed to deal with one at a time. My hon. Friend expressed an anxiety which I think is on a point of order. With great respect, Mr. Deputy Chairman, the concepts embodied in Clause 41 are fundamental to the Clauses which follow it. There are definitions of "bargaining unit", "negotiating rights", "sole bargaining agent", and so on. They are to be contrasted with the provisions contained in new Clause 15. I have no doubt that, as a matter of order, the provisions contained in new Clause 15 could have been set alongside one of several debates on the Clauses in this Part of the Bill, but the Committee may feel—and I am probably entirely out of order in saying this—that it is not an inconvenient context in which to discuss the alternative approaches, so as to avoid the frequent repetition of the same point on successive Clauses. That is the spirit in which I am approaching it, and I hope that I am not going out of order in doing so.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ The Solicitor-General
I will just repeat the point and provoke the hon. Gentleman once again, if I have to. I was saying that the hon. Member for Walton had made an important statement when he said that in recognition disputes strike action is—and I utter what he said in parenthesis—or ought to be—totally unnecessary.
§ Mr. Heffer
What I said was that strikes ought not to be necessary in this modern day and age. I did not say that trade unions should not take strike action in present circumstances to force recognition. I was saying that we should devise a system, as was envisaged in my right hon. Friend's Bill, for forcing recog- 332 nition upon recalcitrant, reactionary employers without it being necessary for workers to take strike action.
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not wish to misunderstand or misrepresent the hon. Gentleman, but we are here, almost for the first time, plainly on important common ground. There are certain types of strike in certain situations which ought not in a modern society to be necessary if society formulates an alternative machinery for the resolution of the underlying disputes. That is precisely what this legislation is about—the creation of the alternative machinery which the hon. Gentleman said was to be found in the right hon. Lady's Bill for the resolution of these matters.
This is the point of principle which we make. We seek only to identify certain types of industrial action as unfair where we are striving to produce alternative machinery for the resolution of those disputes. I am delighted to have the support of the hon. Member for Walton in at least identifying the good sense of the principle. We may disagree on how we apply it, but we have had from him an important acknowledgment of principle.
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is necessary to provide machinery of this kind—and I gladly accept his words. we can all think of examples—to compel recalcitrant employers who unreasonably fail to recognise trade unions. I mince no words and make no important concession in acknowledging, as hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have said, that such situations exist. Fine —that is what our machinery is about.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West) rose—
§ The Solicitor-General
I will just make the second part of my point and then give way. It is unrealistic to suppose that disputes and recognition strikes arise solely because of confrontations and disputes between unions seeking recognition and recalcitrant employers. The hon. Member spoke about the way in which disputations arise between the Teamsters and the Union of Automobile Workers in the United States. Fair enough. It may well be easy, but it is quite unrealistic, to shut our eyes to the 333 fact that inter-union recognition disputes are an alternative and important cause of trouble in this country as well.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Orme
I am following the argument which the Solicitor-General is making, but he should acknowledge that, whilst the trade unions do not want to take industrial action on recognition, they have never asked for the law to be brought in to enable them to achieve recognition. They have asked for better agreements and for employers to have a better understanding. We have eleven million trade unionists in this country, without the law, and we do not need it now.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman says that trade unions have never asked for the law to be brought in in this way. I do not want to weary the House with examples, but in a number of cases which have been heard before the existing Industrial Court unions have sought, understandably and rightly, to require employers—who are not conforming to an industry-wide agreement because the industry-wide agreement provides for recognition—to recognise them. The existing machinery of the Industrial Court does not provide for it. Unions have struggled—I know, I have seen them—to use the 1959 Act procedure as a means of securing recognition. They have not adequate means of securing recognition, hence they refer the matter to the Industrial Court. It is for that reason we are introducing—
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the situation in the United States of America and I pointed to the rivalry which exists between certain unions there. Nobody would deny that even here there are arguments between unions which at the moment are overwhelmingly dealt with by the Trades Union Congress disputes machinery, which solves those problems within the context of the trade union movement. But what the Government proposes to do is to take this outside the trade union machinery, and the establishment of sole bargaining agents would 334 lead to and develop rivalry between unions where in the past such rivalry has not existed. In fact, in the United States rivalry between unions has developed on a much greater scale because of the type of legislation which the hon. and learned Gentleman is proposing.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman has made those points in his own contribution and I will deal with them. The important point is that this machinery does not drive people away, any more than does the machinery in new Clause 15, from making use of the existing important voluntary T.U.C. interunion disputes machinery. To take an example from the other side of the Atlantic, one of the provisions in the original 1947 Taft-Hartley legislation was designed to prevent demarcation disputes. One of the first things that happened when that legislation first came on to the Statute Book was a substantial number of applications before the National Labour Relations Board for the resolution of those demarcation disputes.
One of the consequences that followed the existence of the statutory machinery was the establishment of a new body covering specifically the construction industry. This body was representative on a voluntary basis of both sides. It was spurred on by the existence of the statutory machinery and voluntarily resolved dispute after dispute. This is the way in which we visualise the law providing a safety valve machinery in situations such as the hon. Gentleman acknowledges are without remedy at the moment, but in no sense obstructing the actions of existing voluntary bodies.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman interrupts from a sitting position and I do not want to raise the temperature of the debate. To answer his point, it is no use saying on the one hand, "We have already done it" and on the other hand asserting that there is here a situation in which people resort to strike action and society ought to provide an alternative machinery.
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. and learned Gentleman should get this matter clear. It arises from the fact that he does not know what has already happened. In the construction industry the trade unions 335 have already established machinery for dealing with demarcation disputes. This has already been done on a voluntary basis without the law being introduced. Furthermore, this has been done, apart from the T.U.C. Bridlington agreement, in regard to inter-union rivalry, poaching and so on.
§ The Solicitor-General
I acknowledged that much is being done, but the fact remains that disputes of this kind are far from unique or unknown in our society. If one looks at the original provisions of "In Place of Strife", it rightly said that the right of a union to secure recognition from a recalcitrant employer was recognised; but the Report stated in paragraph 60:Questions of conflict for recognition between rival unions present greater difficulties … disputes over recognition between powerful unions can cause widespread disruption and, unless peaceful methods of finding a solution can be evolved, such disputes will be settled on the basis of which union or group of unions can do, or threaten to do, the greatest damage to the economy. The Government believes that this is intolerable in a modern society. …We believe it to be equally intolerable for a recalcitrant employer to decline recognition to a union which is strongly supported and for unions to fight it out in this way. We believe it understandable that that kind of strike arises and persists so long as society fails to provide an alternative remedy. That is what we are suggesting.
To come back to the closing part of this paragraph in the document "In Place of Strife", it reads, at the end:The employer would then be liable to a financial penalty if he refused to recognise the union or unions which the C.I.R. recommended should be recognised, or recognised one against which it had recommended.That is the second part of the package.
A union which used coercive action to obstruct the implementation of the C.I.R.'s recommendations would also be liable to a financial penalty.The right hon. Lady and her right hon. Friends are entitled to say that they have changed their minds. Indeed, some hon. Members opposite are entitled to say, "We have never agreed with our right hon. Friend anyway." But we are entitled to say that in this paragraph a sensible diagnosis was being made and that it is consistent with the duty of the present Government to follow that diag- 336 nosis and to produce the solutions we have here. It is unrealistic for hon. Members to say—[Interruption.]
§ Mrs. Castle
Leaving aside the argument whether my hon. Friends ever agreed with the policy or whether we have changed our minds, will the hon. and learned Gentleman not admit that an integral part of "In Place of Strife" was that the T.U.C. was to have a statutory right for a reasonable period in which to solve the problem first? In other words, there was to be built into the statutory provisions the recognition that the T.U.C. was the ideal body to settle these matters and that the law ought to provide for that.
§ The Solicitor-General
The machinery proposed in the Bill does no such thing. There is nothing in any of the provisions to stop the T.U.C. and every responsible trade unionist, as they see this Bill marching its way to the Statute Book, or indeed, arriving on the Statute Book, saying, "We do not regard the intervention of the law as necessary on this matter; we will ensure that our own machinery will resolve these matters."
§ Mrs. Castle
This is a vital point and I should like to come back upon it. It is one thing to say, "Let the T.U.C. strengthen its machinery and then nobody will want to use the law." It is a different thing to say that nobody shall be allowed to use the law until the T.U.C. has first by law been given the right to deal with it. The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong to say that is compatible with his provisions which, after these Clauses are passed, will give the right to one or more trade union or an employer, or the Secretary of State, to make application and set the machinery in motion regardless of what the T.U.C. is doing.
§ The Solicitor-General
I fully accept the right hon. Lady's point. It is an entirely different thing to say that nobody may invoke the machinery unless and until the T.U.C. has intervened. But that is to exclude from access to this important new procedure society as a whole, represented by the Secretary of 337 State, and employers and individuals who are being grievously damaged. I do not believe, if we wish to encourage voluntary action by the T.U.C., that it is right to give that body or any other a right of veto over the sensible procedures set out in these provisions.
§ Mrs. Castle
Will the Solicitor-General admit that there is a fundamental difference in principle between his law and "In Place of Strife"?
§ The Solicitor-General
The right hon. Lady seeks to gain too much from my answer on that point. I have gone on wearily but accurately drawing attention to the similarities between proposals and those put forward by the right hon. Lady. The fact that the right hon. Lady has moved away from her original prescription is something inescapably and indelibly imprinted on the minds of the Committee, as on the mind of the country; and there will be no getting away from that.
Coming now to the general argument advanced by the hon. Member he says that all things are to be solved entirely by the voluntary procedure. Some days have been devoted to a discussion of the monstrosity of imposing upon anyone an agreement to which he may not be a party. I invite the Committee to look for a moment in that context on the assertion of hon. and right hon. Members on the other side who rely on voluntarism, at paragraph (4) of New Clause 15, where we come to the heart of the voluntary alternative put forward by those who assert the freedom of contract as a principle to stand above everything else.
It provides that after a recommendation has been made:… the Secretary of State may, if he thinks fit, order the employer or employers to whom the request was made to recognise the trade union or trade unions to the extent specified in the Order …".That is in the heartland of voluntarism. The Secretary of State, if he thinks fit, can order an employer to recognise. We recognise the need for comparable remedies and provide them through the machinery here. But right hon. Members 338 opposite cannot stand with the white sheet of voluntarism around their shoulders and invite the country to ignore what is underneath. The next sentence reads:and where such an Order has been made by the Secretary of State the recognition prescribed in the Order shall be an implied term of every contract of employment between the employer or employers and … any employee for whose benefit that recognition is intended.Here we have the employees on whose behalf recognition has been sought. They may be reluctant or unwilling members of a union unable, on the case put forward by the Labour Party, to escape membership of that union. But those employees, with the employers, are to have imposed upon them by order of the Secretary of State an agreement by which both are bound, and which becomes part of the terms and conditions of employment. It is an alternative remedy for pursing the legislative objective; but I say to hon. Members opposite that to put forward that remedy, to say that there is no place for our prescription to resolve a difficult situation and to say that they are still holding the banner of voluntarism: that, with respect, is nonsense.
I will deal shortly with a number of specific points put forward by the hon. Members for Walton and Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann). Clause 148 makes it perfectly plain that a union that is not independent cannot make use of the statutory procedure for securing enforced recognition, because a union has to be free from employer domination to make use of such procedure.
§ [Mr. E. L. MALLALIEU in the Chair]
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is true that an employer could refer an issue of recognition for an organisation that is not a registered union. Candidly, the proposal was not designed in any sense to achieve that, but to recognise that in many industrial situations there could be organisations at work on the ground, at the grass roots, whose case deserved to be looked 339 at even though they might not have achieved registration. But if hon. Members opposite are saying that the C.I.R. is likely to recommend recognition through this machinery of a house union, it is important to remember that the Commission in paragraph 33 of its First General Report stressed the importance of granting recognition to a unionthat truly represents the interests of the employees".It goes on to say,the union should be effectively independent of management and able to give the strength of organisational backing to the representatives who deal with management".It is clear that the legislation is intended to militate against the recognition of house unions. It is also clear that if what is known as a "sweetheart deal" were to be arrived at, a cosy get together between an employer and a house union, Clause 48 provides for the possibility of withdrawal of recognition from that house union. It provides a minority of employees with the opportunity to achieve this. It strikes me as a little inconsistent —although I understand each of the arguments separately—for the hon. Member for Kensington, North to say that we are in danger of excluding the aggressive unions which should be representing people rather than the house union, when in days past it was said that we were providing a Toughs' Charter whereby militant aggressive characters would disturb responsible unions which had been recognised. Not both arguments can be valid.
§ Mr. Douglas-Mann
One can have both situations in different circumstances. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman can accept that. A provision which could inhibit a house union being appointed certainly would not prevent from being appointed a union which has been "sweetened" by a provision for its own members.
§ The Solicitor-General
But certainly it can then be challenged. I suggest that Clause 48 provides a way of doing so. Certainly this part of the Bill is not intended to be, nor is it likely to be, a foundation for the over-easy recognition of house unions in that kind of way.
I return to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell). He argued that there 340 are employers from whom a union will want to claim recognition and that they ought to have simple machinery to that end. That is certainly something, as several hon. Members have said, for which we proposed machinery in "Fair Deal at Work", so that a union seeking recognition should be able to achieve it.
I do not want to trespass further than my hon. Friends would allow beyond the Rules of Order, but, when we come to it, perhaps I can explain how Clause 42 will provide a way in which a union could achieve that. But my hon. Friend makes a point of some force when he says that it should be possible to devise a way whereby a union simply seeking recognition as a single union against a single employer could perhaps get the right to a ballot more easily. But one still has here the residual questions, in respect of which employees is the union to claim that right, among which employees is a ballot to be held? There is always likely to be a question whether a ballot is to include the maintenance as well as the service staff, for example. But certainly we sympathise with his approach and are always willing to make sure that we have done all that we can to see whether we have achieved it.
On that point, may I close by pointing out that we have here new machinery that is put forward to solve, we believe in the best way, a variety of problems which those on both sides of the Committee will recognise exist in this country. It is on that basis that I commend it to the Committee. It is designed to remove the causes of strife between unions, and between a union and an employer in the recognition situation, and I suggest that it deserves the support of the Committee.
§ Mr. Orme
I return to the point with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just been dealing, when he quoted from paragraph 60 of "In Place of Strife", dealing with demarcation disputes. May I put it to him that he was talking about disputes which arise between unions having demarcation problems arising out of the nature of the work they carry out. I ask him, what has this to do with the appointment of a sole negotiating agent in this context of Clause 42?
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not demarcation disputes 341 between unions with which we shall be dealing, but something quite different? I think it is fair to say that as a result of the work of the T.U.C. and its disputes committee demarcation disputes no longer arise. I should like any hon. Gentleman to give me recent examples of disputes similar to those which used to occur in the shipbuilding industry, the construction industry and the engineering industry. Where are the demarcation disputes about which the right hon. Gentleman was talking taking place?
What about the disputes that will arise because of the sole bargaining agent? What the right hon. Gentleman is aiming to achieve by this and subsequent Clauses is one bargaining agent within one plant. My hon. Friend raised the issue of there being a 60-to-40 proportion between two unions. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have strong feelings about professional organisations being trapped by these Clauses. Let us consider the situation which would arise if the A.S.T.M.S. and the A.U.E.F.W. were in one plant, and the question at issue was which union should be the sole bargaining unit. The Solicitor-General owes it to the Committee to explain what paragraphs (a) and (c) mean.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about a sole bargaining agent, but the Clause talks about joint negotiating rights within a plant while there is still a sole bargaining agent. Will the Solicitor-General explain this now, or does he propose to wait until we get to some of the later Clauses to tell us how this will work? Will a works committee be an appropriate body to be the sole negotiating agent within a plant where there are a number of unions representing different trades? Who will negotiate for the foundry shop, or the machine shop? Different unions could be involved. Will the works committee be a valid negotiating unit, and the sole negotiating unit, or will attempts be made to try to create a one-union situation in the plant?
If there is industrial trouble now, goodness knows what will happen if we try to remove established trade unions of many years' standing, unions which go back to the beginning of the industrial history of this country. It just cannot be done. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he can wipe out these unions, I remind him of the difficulties created in the United States when the sole bar- 342 gaining agent and the agency shop were created. American unions are based on more industrial lines than those in Britain, and no not have the historical background of the British trade union movement. There was tremendous difficulty when the change to which I have referred was brought in, and the Solicitor-General was less than honest when he talked about the 1947 Taft Hartley Act assisting in that situation.
The Solictor-General did not tell the Committee that after the system had been operating for some time, and it looked as though it was coming down in favour of the militant unions, amendments were moved and approved in Congress to remove the advantages which the militant unions were gaining. Nor did the Solicitor-General give us the case histories of the number of employers in the United States who took steps to clog the machinery and stop the recognition of established unions.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) talked about unions being quickly and easily able to establish recognition, without having to go through all this machinery. On top of the agency shop, this provision will make workshop organisation and negotiation a legal nightmare. I do not think the Secretary of State appreciates what the duplication of these different provisions will mean, with a 20 per cent. vote applicable in one instance, 51 per cent. in another, a two-thirds vote in another, and a majority being necessary in yet another, without stating what the majority ought to be. All this is stipulated in the Bill time and again and I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this will create an absolute morass of problems, which will not easily be resolved.
I come now to discuss the Bridlington Agreement. When the right hon. Gentleman was in opposition we used to hear him talking about wanting stronger unions, fewer unions and proper agreements. The Bill and these proposals are running counter to those ideas, because the T.U.C.'s standing will be destroyed if this Measure goes through. The Bridlington Agreement will not be worth the paper that it is written on. How can the T.U.C. come in to mediate and use its good offices in an industry about which it knows something when it will have 343 High Court judges handing down judgments, with the power of legal enforceability to the unions concerned? With the best will in the world the T.U.C. will not be able to operate the Bridlington Agreement, and I think that this provision will make nonsense of the whole situation.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Is it not correct that under the Bill it will be possible for unions to make a binding agreement between themselves about how they will resolve demarcation disputes?
§ Mr. Orme
They are now making binding agreements which do not need legal underwriting. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to give me instances of current demarcation disputes which are wrecking British industry. All that I am asking for are examples of such disputes. The answer is that they cannot give them, for the simple reason that the number of these disputes has been reduced, because the T.U.C. has operated efficiently, and because amalgamations have taken place in certain shipbuilding and attendant industries. Such disputes no longer arise, because trade unionists in Barrow, Glasgow and elsewhere have become convinced of the wastefulness of such strikes. The difficulties have been removed by the unions under their own constitutions, and under the guidance of the T.U.C., which has handed down decisions to the unions. These decisions have not always been popular, and the unions have not always accepted them in the form in which they have been handed down, but, because of their loyalty they have, in the final analysis, carried them out. Trade unionists understand the problem, and it goes to show that trade unions can deal with demarcation problems.
The Clause has nothing to do with demarcation problems. It has to do with conflicts arising out of implementation of the Clause and its attendant Clauses. We shall come to some of the details later, but it is a bit odd that here again we have stuck in at the beginning of an important part of the Bill what is meant to be a definition Clause. It has nothing to do with the legal aspects of Clauses 42 to 49, and we have had no definition from the Government of what is meant. They have not defined paragraphs (a) and 344 (c). They have not explained the principles, or tried to see how the principles set out in the Clause will work. What we get in subsequent Clauses is how the law will be applied, and how it will be imposed. We have not had the overall picture. The Solicitor-General tried to make some point about new Clause 15. The policies and alternatives which we on this side have advocated in opposing the Bill are based on a voluntary system. I hope that on subsequent Clauses we shall be able to show the Secretary of State just how impossible these Clauses are and how heavily weighted they are against trade unions.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
The Government Front Bench rarely gives us practical examples. In view of Britain's long history of industrial relations I should have thought that the Government could use practical examples to illustrate how the Bill will work.
I wish to refer to a practical example in my endeavour to find out how the Bill will operate. In the dustmen's strike last October the national negotiating procedure began to crumble after a while. When the joint body negotiating on behalf of all municipal employers was holding out for granting an increase of only 35s., the Labour-controlled Sheffield City Council, off its own bat, met the demand of 55s. in full.
This action was bitterly criticised by the Conservatives on the council, who said that as employers the Sheffield City Council was breaking the agreement that the other employers were sticking to, that the negotiations should be national, and that the Sheffield City Council had no right to become the sole bargaining unit at a local level. The Conservative councillors said that the matter should be reported and that Sheffield councillors were liable to be surcharged. Legal advice was taken.
Many Labour councils refrained from making separate settlements with their employees and getting the men back to work because they were advised by their town clerks or other officers that the councillors would be liable to surcharge. Many councils wished to settle on a local basis rather than wait for the mass of local authorities to move to get the dustbins emptied. 345 In a case such as that a local opposition could have a field day by making use of the Clause. It could be said, "We as Conservative councillors in a minority are also part of the bargaining unit. We as Conservative councillors have some rights, because we are members of the council. We as a minority opposition are part of the bargaining unit". They could apply to the Court, because in effect there would be a split in the employers' front. One part of the council could say, "We do not agree; and we, as a minority group on the council, have negotiating rights". They could try to stop the majority party on the council from paying the increase. They could take the matter to the Industrial Court, because the law is not clear.
We shall get into an impossible position if local politics are allowed to bedevil a pay claim. Local councils form together the biggest employers in the country. They make I.C.I. look like chicken feed as regards the number of people they employ, the number of rises negotiated, the number of joint negotiating panels, and so on.
Once it is possible for the law to step in to settle any disputes, it immediately becomes tempting for local minority groups to throw a spanner in the works; on the one side it could be politicians and on the other it could be local unions trying to take part in negotiations.
As an example, the ambulance men are trying to establish their own union. In some areas local ambulance men have said, "We demand sole negotiating rights. We are no longer interested in belonging to the Confederation of Health Service Employees". So a dispute could be created by means of this tactic.
I hope that when he replies the Secretary of State will give us examples of how the Bill would have applied in the local authority dispute, which was conducted under existing procedures. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that once the law is invoked in these matters any small point of dispute could cause havoc.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
The Bill has been left behind by the course of events. On an earlier Clause I argued that, although hon. Members opposite never tire of talking about how the Labour Government ran away from their own legislation at Downing Street one 346 morning, the Labour Government made an enormous advance in the sense that the trade unions—the constituent members of the T.U.C.—for the first time gave the General Council remarkable sovereign powers over the constituent bodies.
I, too, remember the demarcation dispute which caused my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) to include a provision about demarcation in her projected legislation. At that time there were fears of a dispute in the steel industry because of the differences between A.S.S.E.T. and B.I.S.A.K.T.A. While Clive Jenkins and Mr. Dai Davies were making all kinds of pugilistic noises, the Labour Government were concerned about what could have become a very crippling strike. We therefore decided that it would be advisable for us to do what we could to influence the trade unions to accept a decision from the General Council of the T.U.C.
The T.U.C. intervened and made a decision which was not popular with everybody. In such a situation its decision could not be popular with everybody. However, the T.U.C. made a decision which was acceptable to both unions and a dispute in the steel industry was avoided. Since then there has been no demarcation dispute in the steel industry or anywhere else to my knowledge. The unions have given the T.U.C. powers to intervene in such disputes, powers which are far and away more effective than anything that can appear in the Bill.
As the Committee knows, I differ in some ways from many of my hon. Friends on the question of legislation. However, I do not believe that in the matter covered by the Clause legislation can ever do anything. To use a word well known in the North, nous is the dominating factor in this matter. It is tempting for the biggest single union to demand sole bargaining rights. If the criterion is to be that there should be a sole bargaining unit, one can visualise a whole area of disputes resulting from the acceptance of that one union. At one time I was the convener of the biggest single union in a great plant. If I had tried to run that plant purely on the basis of the A.E.U. I would have had disputes every day. It is in this connection that the works committee procedure must obtain 347 and we must ensure that there is proper and adequate representation of the shop stewards of every union. They may not be able to justify a place on the works committee, but when matters of vital importance to their union are discussed they should be brought into the deliberations of the works committee subcommittee.
Huge plants can be brought to a standstill by 20 or 30 men. How can we possibly determine sole bargaining agencies purely on the basis of numbers? The Secretary of State knows as well as I do that if 30 fitters among many thousands of people on the assembly line of a car factory or aircraft factory decided that they had a grievance and stopped work the assembly line would come to a halt within hours. I do not say whether I am happy about that situation or not. All that I am pointing out is that it is a fact. Suppose that those 30 people are members of one trade union which has not been given recognition in the sense of being a bargaining agent. How can we expect them to forget their problems merely because their union is not the bargaining agency, although if they insist upon that which they feel is necessary in their conditions of employment they know that the whole factory will be brought to a stop?
I have had some experience in these matters and I do not pretend to be unusual in that respect, but I could run a coach and horses through Clause 41 at any time if I were the shop steward of a union which had not been given bargaining rights.
In many great factories there are two works committees—one for the manual workers and one for the staffs. Which will be accepted as the sole bargaining agent? The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the agreements of the staff unions can be completely different from the agreements of the manual unions. Is it to be said, "We are very sorry, but until a new arrangement has been made to bring the two committees together, and until they unify their procedures and the staff unions make the same agreements as the manual unions, or vice versa, one of them will not be able to function as a bargaining agent"?
I can think of no way of making Clause 41 effective. I can see many ways 348 in which attempts to apply it are bound to cause disruption in factories where there is no disruption at present. The Clause is another illustration that the Bill is bound to create much more disagreement, although I give the Government credit for their attempts to eliminate areas of disagreement. No hon. Member can argue that there is now need for legislation to deal with demarcation disputes. The Bill is silly and stupid and is more likely to cause demarcation disputes than cure them.
My hon. Friends have won the arguments to which I have listened. The Secretary of State has not made any concessions. We have had no indication from him that, because of the arguments which have been deployed, to which neither he nor the Solicitor-General has given an adequate answer, he will be willing to consider the matter again. On the question of demarcation, the Secretary of State is barking up the wrong tree. The provisions of Clause 41 cannot be made operative in any industry of which I know and they are far more likely to cause trouble than prevent it.
I therefore suggest that the Secretary of State tells us that he is willing to look at the Clause again and to try to incorporate some of the suggestions made by the Opposition and bring forward suitable Amendments on Report.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)
I intervene briefly to make four points.
First, I agree with the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) that this is a complicated Bill. The most misleading of the many misleading statements in the T.U.C. national advertising campaign was the assertion that it is easy to stop strikes. I do not believe that there is anything easy about it, and therefore this is a complicated Bill. I hope that when the Bill becomes law the Government will ensure that simple booklets and pamphlets are available on factory shop floors for those involved in the day-to-day running of industrial relations. I realise that that cannot be done while the Bill is still a Bill, but I believe that it will be absolutely essential once it is on the Statute Book.
Secondly, the new Clause and the Government's general provisions demonstrate a clear division between the two 349 sides of the Committee. On the one side there is the Government's proposal that the law should set the framework for industrial relations, and, on the other side, there is the view that the Secretary of State should be involved in making orders. This is indicative of two completely different attitudes.
Thirdly, I do not think democracy has very much to do with the matter. During the debate on "In Place of Strife" the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) declaimed about parliamentary democracy. She said:Parliamentary democracy would be empty and meaningless unless it were underpinned by democratic institutions in the industrial field …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 43.]Under the Government's proposals there could be no order of the court in a recognition dispute unless there had been a ballot of the work people. Under new Clause 15 there could be, and the Secretary of State could make an order even if there had not been a ballot of the work people. I leave it to the Committee to judge which is the more democratic approach.
Fourthly, the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) said that we do not need legislation for demarcation disputes. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) referred to the ambulance drivers dispute. Who is to say that industrial action might not flow from that dispute? Who, looking at the aggressive development—I do not complain about it—of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs and its possible future growth can say that it will not lead to recognition disputes and probably industrial action?
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Gentleman is confusing a demarcation dispute with a recognition dispute. The ambulance men do not dispute who is to drive the ambulance. They are simply disputing which union shall represent them.
§ Mr. Scott
There may well be recognition disputes about A.S.T.M.S. As that union widens its scope it will come into dispute with other unions, which may lead to industrial action. It is right that there should be provision in the law for resolving such disputes.
In "In Place of Strife" the two problems of the recalcitrant employer and com- 350 petition between two unions were recognised as equal problems which had to be solved by legislation. New Clause No. 15 says that only one problem—that of the recalcitrant employer—needs to be dealt with. It is for the Committee to decide whether that switch in emphasis from "In Place of Strife" to new Clause 15 is in the interests of good, orderly industrial relations or whether it is in the interests of unity within the Parliamentary Labour Party.
§ Mr. McNamara
The Solicitor-General and the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) have confused the whole issue of the Bridlington Agreement. They have confused three separate matters—the demarcation dispute, the recognition dispute and the inter-union rivalry dispute for the recruitment of members.
As my hon. Friends have indicated—and no one has yet challenged us—there has been no major demarcation dispute in this country for a long time. On recognition by recalcitrant employers, there has rarely been any need generally for a union to seek the aid of the State for recognition in this sphere. On the question of poaching between unions, the Bridlington Agreement, the T.U.C.'s example of what happened with N.A.S.D.U. has been a strong and effective weapon agreed voluntarily between the unions to prevent that sort of dispute arising.
The hon. Member for Paddington, South said that we could not explain the Bill to people on the shop floor because it is not yet passed. But we are to have some little booklets, and then they will understand what a Bill of 139 pages, with 150 Clauses and eight Schedules is all about. The booklets will explain to the lads on the shop floor what irregular industrial action is. We are to say, "Do not stop the job for a minute. Let is go through, and when you have finished you can have the dispute, and you have not broken the law on this occasion." That is the sort of situation which will be created.
We shall hedge around the people who administer the aspirin on the shop floor to prevent major surgery later, if the type of proposal which the hon. Member for Paddington, South has been discussing comes into operation. It will make 351 shop stewards or union officials so hedged around by legislation that they will take no action for the benefit of their members because they are afraid of the consequences, until we have a whole lot of precedents to enable them to know what they can or cannot do. They may say, "To hell with all that. This is what I want to see happen, and this is what I am going to do." That will bring the whole fabric of law into disrepute, which will be bad for society as a whole. That is why we are against the Bill and the definition which exists here.
In his opening speech my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) suggested that we reject the Clause. He mentioned the important statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in the other place on the situation with regard to professional organisations or unions, call them what one will.
What will a bargaining unit mean? If a certain group of people, because of the concession made, are to be omitted, are we saying that we now have two standards of law, one for people with a professional qualification, with letters after their name and perhaps a university degree, and one for people who belong to a manual union or a skilled union, who do not have the same sort of professional qualifications although their organisations in essence, are no different from the A.E.F. or T.G.W.U.? These people have as much pride as professionals—those who regard themselves as professional workers.
Those who listened to the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who spoke about loyalty, devotion and professionalism within their own trade union, and what holding their union card meant to them, could not fail to see that the unions have just as much right to recognition and acceptance as has any other professional organisation. Therefore, we are entitled to ask the Secretary of State to give far more information about what he means by a register for professional organisations.
Paragraph (c) of this Clause states:'sole bargaining agent' in relation to a bargaining unit, means the organisation of workers…352 This is another anomaly created in the Bill. We are told that it means "an organisation of workers." But if one turns to the definition Clause, one is referred back from that to Clause 57, where one has the whole string of definitions of organisations of workers which may or may not be a trade union for the purposes of the Bill. If it is not a trade union, as defined by the Bill, then none of the safeguards for a registered trade union which are contained in the Bill applies to an organisation of workers which has failed to register, or which, once having had its name put upon the provisional register, does not allow any sort of claim to go forward on its behalf, and therefore lapses.
We shall be in a situation in which we could have recognised as the sole bargaining agent an organisation of workers negotiating on behalf of its membership who will, if they take the limited right to strike action, which they have under the Bill, lose all the protection given to a registered trade union—which is not much. They will lose all that, but they will be recognised as sole bargaining agents under the provision of the Clause.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. We should have more explanation from the Secretary of State on exactly what he means in terms of professional associations and the concessions he has made, and in terms of organisations of workers and the effects of this definition. Perhaps we may also have a recognition and realisation from the Conservative Party of the work which has been done by the T.U.C. under the Bridlington Agreement.
Under the provisions of the Bill, if we had a new organisation of workers which was not a member of the T.U.C. but recognised under the Act as a trade union, and it wanted to behave like a rogue elephant throughout industry, it could create chaos unimagined in the House. We cannot have it.
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
Listening to the Debate for the number of days which I have, it has become rather frightening to realise that this legislation has been prepared by well meaning people who unfortunately base their experience, I imagine, entirely upon matters such as letters to the Press about trade unionists and their activities and on an out-dated notion of what trade unions' 353 difficulties are at present. For example, we have been discussing two quite different aspects of trade unionism today: demarcation disputes and organisation disputes.
For a long time I worked in a shipyard. As hon. Members know, for many years our shipyards were a hot-bed of demarcation disputes. That was only to be expected when one remembers that there were at least 39 unions in the Confederation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Unions at one time.
One must appreciate the reason behind demarcation disputes. In a minor capacity, I have been called upon from time to time to judge which side in a demarcation dispute was right, and nothing educates one more than to listen to the two sides of such a case.
In our shipyards, the chief reason behind many demarcation disputes was the simple fact of progress. After the last war, the techniques of building ships changed very rapidly. When I first started in the industry in 1944, a large part of the work was carried out by riveters. By the time that I had finished my apprenticeship, welders had come into the industry in greater numbers and taken over the work previously done by riveters, caulkers and others in the "black squad". Many men had served five-year apprenticeships, and they felt that their trades were slipping away from them. Anyone can appreciate the feelings of a man who realises that his training will be of no use to him in the future, and it is not surprising that he fights hard to retain as much work for his own trade as he can. Any tradesman or professional man would do the same.
We in the trade union movement made it clear to men in this position that retraining programmes were available and that there would be no attempt to put them out of work and on the scrap heap at an early age. I do not believe that any law could have done what was achieved over the years by argument and persuasion. Laws do not remove from the minds and hearts of men the fear that what they produce and sell to keep themselves in a living is no longer required.
That was the reason behind many past demarcation disputes. In the shipyard of which I am most intimately knowledgeable, there has not been a demarcation dispute for seven years, 354 since 1964, and there is no indication that there will be any in the future. That situation has been brought about by the trade union movement. Therefore, there is no necessity now to introduce legislation which is designed to help prevent demarcation disputes.
When we come to look at disputes about which unions will organise certain groups of workers, we are concerned with a problem which is present today, particularly among those known as "white collar" workers, of whom my own union, the Draughtsmen and Allied Technicians' Association, organises quite a number.
I will not attempt to deny that my union has been in dispute with certain other unions. Trade unions are in a fairly competitive world, and the possible areas for the expansion of their activities lie among the ever-increasing numbers of technical workers in industry. Behind that simple fact is the reason for a number of moves towards amalgamation between my union and the A.U.E.F.W. since the A.U.E.F.W. recognises the recruitment possibilities in the future among these workers.
Inevitably, there will be disputes among unions about which of them is entitled to organise various groups of workers. But, just as the trade union movement solved the problem of demarcation disputes, so it has the capability of eradicating this second type of dispute in the long run.
If anything, the chances of the T.U.C. doing this have been greatly strengthened by the fact that it has been able to assume more power than it had before as a result of the proposition of the Labour Party some time ago concerning legislation for the trade union movement. The T.U.C. and the trade union movement took a gigantic step forward as a result of the pressure put upon them by the Labour Party, and they have now got the powers which will enable them to solve any dispute about organisation without the necessity of the law intervening, which in my opinion would have been as ineffective there as it would be in settling demarcation disputes.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General dealt adequately and well with the general principles of the Clause, and I will not repeat 355 what he said. I shall deal mainly with the points which have been raised since he made his intervention.
However, before doing that I should remind the Committee that here we are dealing with machinery of last and not first resort. We are not putting forward machinery to supplant all the voluntary machinery which operates, should operate and will be encouraged to operate in the future. We are providing a net to catch those cases which prove so stubborn and difficult that the voluntary machinery fails. They are not many but, when failures occur, usually they are very serious and very complicated. Perhaps it is not altogether surprising that complicated machinery is required to deal with them.
We want to make sure that the machinery of last resort is constitutional rather than strike machinery. Both sides of the Committee agree that in the 1970s and onwards we ought to make available to the parties machinery for resolving disputes about recognition and bargaining rights, rather than, when all normal negotiating and voluntary procedures fail, leaving matters to be fought out by the crude weapon of strike action. That is in the interests of the community at large and of the unions and workers concerned.
However, it is only a last resort and an alternative to strike action. It is undeniable that some of these cases exist. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that there were none of these cases nowadays and that no one can remember a great recognition dispute which had caused trouble in recent years. However, the dispute of the white collar workers in the steel industry was very troublesome for a long time. There was the Johnson Matthey case, where the A.U.E.F.W. and A.S.T.M.S. were in dispute. There was the ambulance drivers' dispute—
§ Mr. Frederick Lee
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was the intervention of the T.U.C. and acceptance by both sides of the T.U.C.'s decision which settled it?
§ Mr. Carr
Yes, I agree. Associated Octel was another case recently. In all of the four cases that I have quoted, A.S.T.M.S. has been involved. That is 356 no criticism of A.S.T.M.S., but it reinforces the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) that in this new expansionary drive of trade unionism among white collar workers, where there is room for expansion and where it will undoubtedly take place, there is the likelihood of more union clashes and conflicts in the future than there have been in the recent past. Therefore, it is all the more necessary to have some machinery available, not to take the place of the T.U.C. and all the voluntary machinery that we have, but to provide a means of catching up with the minority cases which the normal voluntary processes have failed to solve.
§ Mr. McNamara
I think that the right hon. Gentleman made a slip of the tongue, because he said "demarcation" when he really meant "recognition".
I do not deny that there is competition. The machinery within the T.U.C., by virtue of the Bridlington Agreement, is being used effectively. It was this machinery which settled the steel dispute, not the Pearson Inquiry or anything else.
§ Mr. Carr
I agree. This machinery should operate. We must also remember that not all unions, including well-established unions which hon. Members opposite regard as highly respectable, are affiliated to the T.U.C. There are some areas where, for various reasons, some unions are not affiliated to the T.U.C.
§ Mr. Carr
Not many, but some. So there must be some machinery for those cases.
There are also cases of employers who are not, either directly or indirectly through some subsidiary association, members of the C.B.I. Therefore, we cannot depend entirely on machinery which can only be operated when the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. are involved, because on both sides of industry there are employers and unions—they may be a minority, but they are there—who are not affiliated to the T.U.C. or the C.B.I.
§ Mr. Orme
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned, in connection with recognition as opposed to demarcation disputes, Johnson Matthey in which the A.U.E.F.W. and the A.S.T.M.S. were 357 involved. That is quite right. But there are so few of these cases that the exception is proving the rule. There is bound to be conflict. However, we say that such conflicts will not be resolved by this complicated legal structure.
§ Mr. Carr
We believe that there must be machinery to pick up the minority of cases which fail to be resolved. It is quite wrong to suggest that the machinery which we propose will in any way prevent the T.U.C. continuing to operate the Bridlington Agreement. Unions will continue to be free to operate agreements limiting their freedom to recruit each other's members. I hope that they will continue doing so. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent them.
Clause 43, to which I may refer only briefly in passing, provides that a recognition dispute is not to be referred or dealt with by the C.I.R. until the parties have endeavoured to settle it themselves. Therefore, the C.I.R. cannot come barging in. This machinery cannot interfere. The Bill specifically provides that the machinery cannot be brought in until the parties have endeavoured to settle the dispute themselves.
I underline again that we are not in any way replacing what is already there. Our proposal is the net to catch the few cases which fall through the normal procedure, which, almost by definition, are likely to be of a particularly difficult and stubborn nature. Therefore, we need this machinery. I do not believe that that is a matter of dispute between the two sides. The Opposition's case is not that there should be no machinery, but that there should be different machinery —hence new Clause 15. The Committee must decide whether the Government's proposed machinery is better than that proposed in new Clause 15.
I wish to comment briefly on new Clause 15, but only on one or two matters of principle.
First, new Clause 15 deals only with the recalcitrant employer. It is necessary that there should be machinery for that. But, as the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) recognised in "In Place of Strife", however different her proposal for dealing with it may be, there is also the possibility of the recalcitrant union not being prepared to accept recommendations or to abide by voluntary 358 agreements. The right hon. Lady will remember that this was one of the difficulties in dealing with the dispute about the white collar workers in the steel industry where a committee of inquiry made certain recommendations which were acceptable to certain people but not to all. So the right hon. Lady had to go back on that and start again.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ There is a potential problem in the rare case of the recalcitrant union as well as the rare case of the recalcitrant employer. Therefore, any machinery which we have must deal with both. My first argument for rejecting the machinery of new Clause 15 is that it deals only with the recalcitrant employer; it does not deal also with the recalcitrant union.
Another criticism of the new Clause 15 machinery compared with the machinery which we propose is that it all hinges on the initiative of the Secretary of State. New Clause 15 begins,
Where it appears to the Secretary at State".
For anything to happen at all it has to appear necessary to the Secretary of State to set everything going. We say that it can appear to the Secretary of State and he can start it, but it can also appear to the employer and to the union and they should be able to start it. It is important that the Secretary of State, the union and the employer are each able to start the machinery working in a stubborn case. Therefore, the second reason for inviting the Committee to reject the new Clause 15 alternative is that it leaves the right to start the machinery only in the hands of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Heffer
The right hon. Gentleman is leaving out a very important part of new Clause 15, which, quite rightly, says:Where it appears to the Secretary of State that an employer or group of associated employers has not complied with a request for recognition made by or on behalf of one or more trade unions … the Secretary of State may, after complying with subsection (3), refer that request to the Commission".Subsection (3) says:Before referring any request to the Commission under this section, the Secretary of State shall give notice of the proposal—In other words, before the Secretary of State gets to the stage of making orders, a long process has to be gone through.
- (a) to the employer …
- (b) to the General Council and the Confederation".
§ Mr. Carr
I accept all that. But it is up to the Secretary of State to act or not to act in the end.
The right hon. Member for Blackburn will no doubt be aware that she had in front of her as I have in front of me, requests, for example, to make references to the C.I.R. in some cases where employers are anxious that we should do it and in other cases where unions are anxious that we should do it. In those cases we have to consult, and all the rest. I do not complain about that. But we believe that if a Minister appears to be rather blind in letting something appear to him, the parties, if they feel strongly, should themselves have the right to activate the machinery. We believe that not only in this area, but in various other areas of the Bill, it is right that the parties, as well as the Secretary of State, should have the right to activate the machinery.
The third point on which I take issue with new Clause 15 is the false claim which it puts forward that somehow our procedure violates the voluntary principle and that the new Clause supports it. That is nonsense. New Clause 15 in the end depends on an order by the Secretary of State. How is an order by the Secretary of State voluntary? It is not. The Secretary of State in making such an order if this machinery were adopted, would be recognising the unfortunate necessity of dealing with certain cases where, despite all efforts, the voluntary machinery had failed. Such cases are rare and regrettable, but the machinery suggested by the Opposition recognises that they exist and that if in the last resort they cannot be resolved on a voluntary basis they must be resolved by some form of order.
§ Mrs. Castle
I thought that it was common ground between both sides that, in industrial relations, there are certain rights which are in the I.L.O. conventions and which we think should be in the law of the land. One is the right to belong to a union, another is the right of a union, where it is clearly representa- 360 tive or is judged to be so, to be recognised and negotiated with by an employer. We accept those as being part of a voluntary system of collective bargaining. But that is very different from having, by law, the choice imposed between different parties where there is a voluntary machinery like the T.U.C. doing that adjudicating between one union and another.
§ Mr. Carr
I am saying that, when we reach the end of our process, whether it be the process which I advocate or the process which the right hon. Lady advocates, in the last resort, force—I use that word in the limited sense which we understand—is involved. The argument between us is whether that compulsion is by the order of the Secretary of State or by order of the Court. In our system, it is by order of the court; under the right hon. Lady's system, it is by order of the Secretary of State.
I ask the Committee to judge which is more accountable. So far as I know, the sort of orders which the Opposition are putting forward and which the right hon. Lady put forward in her Bill, which was published last April but not debated, are not debatable in this House. Therefore, which gives more satisfaction to the parties? Under our procedure, the order is made by the court, and before the court makes the order, all parties involved can go before the court and state their case, to be taken into account before the court decides whether or not to make the order.
Which is more democratic? Which gives more right to the parties to have their points of view taken into account—the chance to go before the National industrial Relations Court, including not only a judge but two people sophisticated and knowledgeable and experienced in the ways of industry, and to have their case stated, or an order by the Secretary of State which is not even debatable?
§ Mr. Carr
It will not be handed down by a High Court judge with no knowledge of working conditions, because the 361 whole basis of our system involves the establishment of specialised courts which, in addition to a lawyer, shall include two people of industrial sophistication, knowledge or experience. So the judgment will be given only by these people—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member and others like him refuse to take their opportunity to involve themselves in this sort of decision, it is their fault and no one else's; they had better realise it, as their members will realise it too.
The idea that nothing is democratic or satisfactory unless it is accountable or arguable in this House is a fiction. This country depends—the whole constitution and the whole way of life is based—on the concept of freedom under the law. Parliament also criticises the executive, but—I repeat—the sort of order which the right hon. Lady envisages is not even debatable in the House. If she had her way, all we could do is ask the right hon. Lady a question at Question Time.
I do not believe that that is in any way equivalent, in the satisfaction of the parties involved, to being able to go before a sophisticated and knowledgeable court to state their respective cases before the Order is made. So for that reason, we reject this machinery.
In answer to fears expressed by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and one or two others who asked, "What will these units be and what will the bargaining agents be?", I would say that both the units and the agents will be on the recommendation of the C.I.R., which is also a highly sophisticated industrial body. It will not come in at all if the parties have agreed among themselves. This is only a reserve power to deal with the cases which fail to be resolved by normal voluntary methods. When they have to be, the unit will be defined by the C.I.R., as will the bargaining agent—not by the court or the Secretary of State, but on the recommendation of the C.I.R., supported, or thrown out, by a ballot of all those involved.
The hon. Member for Salford, West was concerned about what would happen in a multi-union situation, with a number of unions entrenched by long history and practice in a particular works or industry. We realise that, and that is precisely why we have not copied the United States law. We are always being accused of copying the United States, but 362 we have not done so here, precisely because we realise that the situation here is quite different. This is why we are not insistent that the sole bargaining agent must be a single unit.
This is why we are saying that the sole bargaining agent can be a joint panel, such joint panel as the C.I.R., with all its knowledge and sophistication, after full inquiry, shall decide as appropriate and shall recommend. So there will be no question of someone forcing through one union on a narrow majority and telling others to clear off to the courts.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would the Secretary of State clarify one point? He said earlier that the C.I.R., not the courts, would determine, as it were, "constituencies" and boundaries and descriptions of workers. Can he explain Clause 43(3) which says that where the Industrial Court refers a question to the Commission,… the reference shall specify both the question to be determined by the Commission and the employer or employers, and the employees or descriptions of employees, in relation to whom it is to be determined.The way I read that—I may be wrong: I am not a lawyer, although I understand that legal opinion agrees with me—is that the court will very much determine constituencies and boundaries and descriptions of workers. Let us have it spelled out.
§ Mr. Carr
We can discuss this when we reach that point, but I can assure the Committee that that is not so. But we must, when referring something to the C.I.R., define what we are referring. That happens in Secretary of State references at the moment. In this case, as the reference would have come through the court, the court must define the reference, but some other Clause—the precise number escapes me at the moment—specifically allows the C.I.R. to find on inquiry that it is dissatisfied, and, if it thinks that it is being confined, to be able to apply for the reference to be extended.
I am sorry that I cannot, on my feet, direct the hon. Member to the particular Clause and subsection where that happens, but I assure him that Clause 43(3) is no more than an official definition of a reference. If the C.I.R. finds this too restricting or wrong, it can change it. If the Committee is not satisfied about that, let me be clear about the intention and 363 say straight away that, if the Committee feels that the words do not make that intention clear, one one will be more happy than I to make it clear.
§ Mr. Orme
The right hon. Gentleman says that collective unions within a plant will be able to negotiate jointly, but of course, as my hon. Friend has just said about Clause 43(3), this means that some outside body will, at some ultimate date, decide whether a certain union is included —so the freedom is not there, as it is at the moment, for a collective works committee to be appointed.
§ Mr. Carr
The hon. Gentleman is wrong about that. He will keep thinking that this is a new machinery that we are imposing on everyone ab initio. It will come into play only when all the normal voluntary processes have been at work and have failed. It will not come in unless all the voluntary processes that the hon. Gentleman mentioned have been tried and have, unfortunately, failed.
We are dealing here only with the machinery to pick up the minority of cases where all the normal, traditional, voluntary processes, including those of the T.U.C., the C.B.I. and all the other bodies active in this field, have tried their best and have failed. We believe that there must be some machinery available to deal with such a minority of cases. We commend our machinery to the Committee and ask it to reject that put forward in the new Clause.
§ [Mr. BRYANT GODMAN IRVINE in the Chair]
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
The Secretary of State worked up an extraordinary lather about something that only he could read into our new Clause—the unwarranted assumption that the order referred to would not be debatable by the House. It is not the Opposition's task to try to redraft his Bill for him. We have done a very thorough, serious, painstaking job in presenting a viable alternative to his proposal. But he would not expect us to write out all the consequential Amendments.
§ The Solicitor-General
Where do the Opposition stand on this? The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that new Clause 15 was a 364 reproduction of the proposals in the right hon. Lady's Bill. I accept that we cannot expect all the consequentials, but Clause 6 of that Bill, of which the new Clause is a compressed edition, made it clear that the order to be made by the Secretary of State for recognition was not to be debatable. It was expressly excluded by a later Clause in that Bill from those which were debatable in the House. In other words, it was not voluntary. It was not even debatable. It was an executive order made by the Secretary of State under Clause 6 of her Bill.
§ Mr. Walker
I shall refer again to the extraordinary proneness of the Secretary of State and the Solicitor-General, in advancing their arguments, to continue to rest on what we did at another time and in different circumstances. It is extraordinary that a Bill which has not been debated in the House, the justification for which circumstances prevented us from presenting from the Government Dispatch Box, should so continually be invoked by the Secretary of State. Perhaps as much as anyone in the House he knows that any decision or action by any Minister is accountable to the House; the Minister must be responsible to the House for it. To that extent the Minister would be answerable to the House for his actions, whatever might be in the Bill and whatever the intentions in our proposed new Clause.
The Secretary of State touched my heart strings when he referred to the British Steel Corporation situation. I was in the Department involved in that at the time. It caused me and my right hon. Friend a great deal of anxiety. In the last resort, that situation was resolved by the unions, when everyone had had a nibble at it and failed. That proves the point that my hon. Friends have been making so persuasively from the back benches. All the unions involved—14 or 16 of them—are opposed to what the right hon. Gentleman is now pressing on the House.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to share the curious idea of his hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) that recognition of a union can be secured on a democratic basis only through the ballot box. We have pressed the Government to give us concrete examples of the situations in which their 365 proposals would apply. With the single exception of the reference to the British Steel Corporation we have not had any. I will give another example—the situation at B.S.R. at East Kilbride, where a bitter conflict between workers and management was resolved not through the ballot box but by the Commission on Industrial Relations. It did not impose a solution on anyone, but persuaded both employer and workers alike to accept what proved to be the solution.
The right hon. Gentleman said of the proposals in this part of the Bill, echoing what he had said on so many earlier proposals, that he is dealing here with machinery of last resort. That was his phrase. We heard that so many other proposals were for dealing with extreme cases, hard cases. But the right hon. Gentleman has convinced the country that his Bill deals with the generality of cases, that he is legislating for the widespread disorder that he says exists in industrial relations. Now he tells the Committee that proposal after proposal is intended to deal only with the extreme case and last resort issues. Cannot he see that if he provides what my hon. Friend the Member for Walton accurately described as very complex and lengthy procedure to deal with these matters he is providing a very tempting gateway for the recalcitrant employers? My hon. Friend said that there are recognition problems that give rise to disputes and conflicts, and we must recognise this. It is out of such recognition that we have tabled the new Clause.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) is not here. He worked himself up into a hysterical lather the other evening about the alleged destructive rôle of the Opposition Front Bench. We have sought to put before the Committee a very carefully-thoughtout constructive alternative, based on the very lengthy experience that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) had with these matters at the Department of Employment and Productivity and after the fullest consultations with all the parties to whom the proposals would apply.
I return to the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. One thing has puzzled me throughout. Why do we have the Clauses in this part of the Bill dealing with bar- 366 gaining rights which seem largely to duplicate the agency shop provisions? Unless the right hon. Gentleman is telling the Committee that union recognition is one thing and bargaining rights and recognition of those rights are quite different, we are duplicating what has already been provided. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had explained why he found it necessary to provide these two different parts of the Bill.
We have not yet had a reply to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, and pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) about the rumoured proposal that there will be a special, separate register for professional workers. I had not heard of it until this afternoon, but I noticed that hon. Members on the Government back benches were nodding their heads when my hon. Friend referred to it, so it seems that they are somehow privy to information that has not yet been put before the Committee. If so, it is important that the information be provided to us, because it is crucial to the context of the Clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North asked some pertinent questions on this point, which have not yet been answered, revolving around the question of who will be the professional workers eligible for this privileged status. How does one define a professional in this context? Is it someone who has qualifications accorded to him by passing examinations of a learned body? For example, are teachers professionals? They readily assume themselves to be so. These are the sort of things we have had no reply to.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the way in which he has sought to turn the debate into one about interunion disputes. I could not help feeling again that if "In Place of Strife" had never been written, he would have been obliged to invent it in order to provide himself with his stock bolt hole. He must recognise that the Industrial Relations Bill presented to the House by my right hon. Friend before the election differed substantially from "In Place of Strife" in the light of our pursuit of democratic procedures, which contrast very sharply with his own haste with this Bill. 367 The changes we made arose not only from the very lengthy and detailed consultations we had with the T.U.C. but also, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) said, from the fundamental changes that took place, as a result of those consultations, within the trade union movement and in the relationship between the T.U.C. and its constituent unions. It is time that the Government woke up to what happened during the summer of 1969. Then, for the first time, the affiliated unions to the T.U.C. surrendered part of their sovereignty and gave additional powers to the T.U.C. over a wide range of matters over which hitherto they had proclaimed their autonomy.
It lies ill in the mouth of the Solicitor-General to lecture the Committee about demarcation disputes, particularly in the light of the dispute which recently occurred in another place when his own learned profession insisted on its exclusive right to man the judiciary. It is hardly appropriate for him of all people, as the defender of one of the remaining restrictive practices, to be lecturing us about demarcation disputes.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that the definition of independent unions in Clause 148 safeguards the position about which we expressed so much anxiety—that is, the possible recognition of house unions consequent upon the provisions of Clause 42. I have searched Clauses 41 and 42 in vain so far for the word "independent", and in the absence of that word it is difficult to reconcile what he said with the position in the Bill and to justify his defence of the position against the charges made by my hon. Friends.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) complained bitterly about the inadequate definitions in several subsections of Clause 41. But even more fundamental is the fact that the Bill does not define what is meant by "recognition". This is extremely important. Recognition per se is insufficient. It is not enough for an employer who has refused—[Interruption.] I did not know that the Foreign Secretary was an expert on industrial relations. Perhaps I might return without his assistance to the point. It may not strike him as of 368 fundamental significance but it is fundamental to ten million workers in industry.
It is not sufficient for an employer, having gone through the drill laid down by the Secretary of State for Employment, to say, "I will concede your right to be a member of a trade union. Now, so what?". It is not sufficient, when a member of a union invokes, as he sees it, his right to have his union negotiate on his behalf, to see that negotiating right rendered nugatory by derisory and ridiculous offers by the employer.
One of the points of principle in new Clause 15 is a recognition that the right to negotiate does not take place in a vacuum. Union recognition does not take place in a vacuum. It arises from concrete issues in negotiations about terms and conditions of employment. If, having secured recognition, the workers in a factory want a substantial wage increase negotiated through their union, it is obvious that, unless "recognition", is carefuly defined, the employer can make it ridiculous by a derisory offer—for example, "Very well. I will fulfil my obligation by offering you one penny an hour".
We therefore deliberately included in new Clause 15 the provision that the order would become an implied term of every contract of employment between employer and employee. This is rather different from what was in my right hon. Friend's Bill because she provided there that the order that would be made by the Secretary of State would be one that would enable the union to proceed unilaterally to arbitration about a particular issue that was to be the subject of negotiations. The decision of the arbitral body would then have become an implied term of contract of employment. It would then, of course, have been pursuable in the courts in the same way as any other part of the contract of employment.
We have exposed not only the weaknesses but also the impracticabilities of the procedure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman—a procedure which we acknowledge tilts at the problem which undeniably exists—and in doing so we have put forward our own positive alternative, albeit modified. Because it was based on the profound understanding and experience of industry of those with whom we had consultations; because it was 369 based fully on the diagnosis prepared by the Donovan Commission; because it had the backing of the T.U.C., we put our proposal before the Committee as a practical and constructive road ahead in tackling this very difficult problem. That
§ is why I ask the Committee to vote against Clause 41 and subsequently to vote in favour of new Clause 15.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 303, Noes 251.373
§ Clause 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.