§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I beg to move Amendment No. 252, in page 61, line 26, at end insert:(c) does so for reasons of conscientious objection to the work involved.In its amended form, subsection (1) would read:It shall be an unfair industrial practice for any person, in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute, to induce or threaten to induce another person to break a contract to which that other person is a party, unless the person so inducing or threatening to induce the breach of contract—This is no mere hypothetical point. Here are two examples of occasions when such conscientious objection has been taken in our industrial past. First, there were the Lancashire cotton workers who, during the American Civil War, declined to work with imported cotton which had been picked by slave labour. An industrial stoppage occurred because of a conscientious objection. Similarly, in 1920, some dockers refused to load arms for use against Russian revolutionaries. Again, there was an industrial stoppage for conscientious reasons.
- (a) is a trade union or an employers' association, or
- (b) does so within the scope of his authority on behalf of a trade union or an employers' association.
- (c) does so for reasons of conscientious objection to the work involved."
I suggest three possible ways in which conscientious objection could be taken today. First—a topical example—among persons employed in a firm manufacturing Wasp helicopters, there might be those who wished not to participate in 1611 that work while nevertheless being under contract to the company, and there might be other persons outside urging them not to participate in work of that kind. As the Clause stands, would that be regarded as an unfair industrial practice?
Second, a pacifist employed by an electronics firm may work perfectly happily until he discovers that a piece of work on which he engaged is for armaments of some kind. He may have no objection to continuing to work in another part of the firm, but he may object to working on that particular contract, and he may be advised not to continue on that work by a journal such as Peace News. Again, would that be regarded as an unfair industrial practice under the Clause as it stands?
Third—I am sorry that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) is not present, as I owe the inspiration of this example to him—a devout Roman Catholic may be employed in a drug company and suddenly find himself involved in the manufacture of the contraceptive pill. He may legitimately feel this to be contrary to his conscience and wish to take no further part in that production under the general terms of his contract of employment. I doubt if any of us would challenge the right of an individual so to object.
These are all cases where an individual might feel that he does not want to involve himself in a particular piece of work in the course of his contract of employment. The particular matter of concern in Clause 85 is that these cases might become subjects of public controversy in which journalists, pressure groups and even political parties, who are not covered by the protection offered to the trade unions or employers associations under Clause 85, might all support this person or, in the words of the Clause:induce another person to break a contract".The Solicitor-General might reply that inducing someone to disrupt work because of a conscientious objection would not bein contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute".But we have to turn to Clause 148 to find the definition of an industrial dispute: 1612'industrial dispute' means a dispute between one or more employers or organisations of employers and one or more workers or organisations of workers, where the dispute relates wholly or mainly to any one or more of the following …(c) allocation of work as between workers or groups of workers;This is precisely what a person can legitimately object to—the allocation of a particular piece of work to him.(d) a procedure agreement, or any matter to which in accordance with this section a procedure agreement can relate;".An employer might argue that a person being induced to give up his particular employment because of conscientious objection was in breach of a procedure agreement and might claim that it was in furtherance of an industrial dispute and wish to refer the matter to the industrial court.
I cannot see that the Solicitor-General will be able to give us an assurance on this matter because the interpretation of Clause 85 and of what is or is not an industrial dispute is not for him to give an assurance on but is a matter for interpretation by the Industrial Court, and I should therefore be interested to see what his reaction is. My belief is that unless we insert a line such as this into Clause 85 we shall be introducing, perhaps unwittingly, a gag on the freedom of speech and the freedom of action which we traditionally enjoy.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
I support the Amendment, but the case of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) would have been more convincing if the attitude of the Liberal Party to the whole Bill had been more consistent. It takes a mental contortionist to reconcile the sentiments expressed by him with general support for the purposes of the Bill, particularly when the hon. Member expresses doubts whether the Solicitor-General will be able to satisfy him on the narrow point of the Amendment. The logical position for those who support the Amendment is to oppose the whole of Clause 85 and the whole Bill.
I look forward to hearing from the Solicitor-General on this. He has to explain two things to the Committee. One is the position of workers who, for conscientious reasons are unable or unwilling to handle certain kinds of work. 1613 This question probably goes wider than Clause 85 and, if it were to be dealt with properly, would need amendments to be made to other parts of the Bill as well. Secondly, and specifically on Clause 85, he should tell us about the position of those taking part in political or social controversy who urge workers either by speech or by writing not to take part in certain kinds of work.
The two historical examples quoted by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles are particularly apposite to this discussion. In talking of the Lancashire textile workers in the 1860s and the dockers in 1920, we are considering groups of workers who were very poor by our standards even when they had a regular week's work. We are considering groups of workers who faced a heavy degree of unemployment and competition for jobs but who nevertheless decided, as a matter of principle, to make a considerable sacrifice involving themselves and their families because of the issues involved. The Lancashire cotton workers in the 1860s were saying that they would not be party to anything which would seem to be supporting the Confederacy in the civil war and the cause of slavery in the United States. In 1920 the dockers said that they would not handle arms which were to be used for counter-revolutionary purposes in Russia.
We are not considering an academic point but a situation in terms that can be relevant in 1971. If the Conservative Government go ahead with their outrageous proposal to resume arms sales to South Africa, I hope and believe that the workers involved will refuse to manufacture or handle those arms. Certainly, there will be many of us who will urge them to take this view, whether or not the Industrial Relations Bill is on the Statute Book. As the Government know, a wide spectrum of the nation is opposed to the resumption of arms sales to South Africa, and I would not like to say who is covered by the point we are considering. I am wondering whether such pillars of the Establishment as the Editor of The Times, the Chairman of the Bow Group or the Archbishop of Canterbury, might fall foul of Clause 85 if they go on with their opposition to Government policy and suggest, as many will, that the 1614 workers concerned should not handle arms for South Africa.
I put it to the Solicitor-General that, by any standards that should be acceptable to any political party, including the Conservative Party, it would be an intolerable invasion of liberty to pass an Act of Parliament that will limit the ability of workers to act as the Lancashire cotton workers acted in the 1860s or as the dockers acted in 1920. Equally, it would be an intolerable invasion of liberty, even by Conservative Party standards, to suggest that people should not speak or write in favour of them taking action of that kind. The Solicitor-General should either therefore accept the Amendment or find another way of covering the point. If he cannot or will not do so, the logic for all of us, and certainly for the Liberal Party is to oppose the whole Clause and the whole Bill.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I support the Amendment. I was interested that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) instanced the Lancashire cotton workers opposing slavery in the United States and the dockers in London opposing the loading of arms on to the "Jolly George" in 1920. If this argument is followed to its logical conclusion, the cotton workers who suffered so bitterly in the nineteenth century and the dockers who fought so hard in 1920 were exercising collectively their right as trade unionists.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) has said, it ill behoves the Liberals, who supported the regressive measures of the Bill which will weaken and break the trade union movement, such as Clause 5, to say that it is morally right to oppose the manufacture of arms for South Africa but not right for people collectively to bind themselves together as a trade union.
I do not think that anyone who speaks on this issue can be accused of having illiberal views on social matters in overseas countries. It is very much like the argument which is heard so often and which advocates——
§ Mr. Orme
As I was saying, people frequently hold up the plight of those being exploited in countries overseas. I stand second to none in the fight against such exploitation, whether it be in Africa, Asia or anywhere else. But those same people, by supporting this Bill, are attacking the trade unionists whom they ask to oppose, say, the manufacture of arms for South Africa. The argument advanced by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles is neither logical nor right. Anyone who supports Clause 5 or the other punitive Clauses has no right to adopt this attitude now. Workers will be weakened to a tremendous extent if this Bill and all its rigours are introduced, especially when we come to consider secondary action in this regard, as we shall when we deal with Clauses 85, 86 and 87. It is no good urging people to take such action if they are to be denied their basic rights at home. They will be made into second-class citizens, never mind about supporting people overseas who are second-class citizens.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
If I follow the hon. Gentleman's argument, it is that people will only take a stand on points of principle and conscience if they are members of a closed shop or a united union body. I apologise for my ignorance about the two examples which have been quoted. Were they closed shops? Were they solid union situations, or was it a case of unionists and non-unionists banding together to take this action?
§ Mr. Orme
In the case of the cotton workers, I think that it is fair to say that they were mostly organised. The dockers were 100 per cent. trade union organised.
I am not trying to make a cheap political point. My point is a fundamental one. My Liberal colleagues must understand that the Bill cannot be played about with in this way. It is no good right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal bench moving a liberal Amendment on this Clause while they vote for the other Clauses. They cannot try to pick this point out of Clause 85, and then support the Clause in its entirety.
§ Mr. David Steel
The hon. Gentleman must not assume that we will support either Clause 85 or the Bill at all.
§ Mr. Orme
As the hon. Gentleman says, they have been in bed. They have joined the eiderdown gang. We on these benches carry our principles to the point of voting against any and every Clause which we regard as punitive. I make that point in a political sense, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal bench take it in the manner in which I have made it.
Not even this Amendment will improve Clause 85. However, we support the principle put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North. If people so desire, not being directed by anyone outside, they should not be compelled to do anything that is morally wrong, whether it be in this country or anywhere else in the world. British workers have said so in the past, and I believe that they will say so in the future, not only with their voices but, if necessary, by industrial action.
This group of Clauses is probably the most pernicious collection of provisions in the Bill, and even this Amendment will not improve matters. Nevertheless, many of us support the principle which is enunciated. However, I feel that it is important to bring our point of view to the attention of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
To say that I am unsympathetic to the idea behind this Amendment is wrong. I have always been sympathetic to the idea that no man should be forced to do anything against his conscience. It was for that reason in 1952 that I entered negotiations with a certain trade union with a view to trying to persuade its members that it was wrong for people to join the trade union contrary to their consciences. I was successful in that case, and the trade union concerned agreed to the insertion of a conscience clause in an agreement with the industry in which I was involved.
1617 Just as I thought then that it was wrong for a man to be forced to join a trade union against his wishes, thereby creating a closed shop, probably it is wrong for any man to be forced to do work which is contrary to his conscience and, in my view, he should be enabled without penalty to find other employment.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
I want to refer specifically to a more modern case. It is one which arose last year and involved Mr. John Arlott. When the proposed South African cricket tour was being debated throughout the country, Mr. Arlott said that if the team came he would not take part in Test Match broadcasts.
I do not know the basis of Mr. Arlott's contract with the B.B.C. I very much admire the decision that he took. I thought that it was courageous of him to speak out.
§ Mr. Ashton
I accept that. If he was employed by the B.B.C. and was not on contract, then, as I read this Clause, the B.B.C. could have taken him to court and accused him of taking unfair industrial action.
§ Mr. Ashton
It could be said that he was trying to induce other employees not to take part in those broadcasts.
§ Mr. Ashton
Having induced others not to take part in those broadcasts, it could have been argued by the B.B.C. that Mr. Arlott had put the Corporation to a great deal of expense since it would have to train new commentators for the Test Matches, hire other commentators, or possibly remove Mr. Arlott's name from future issues of Radio Times. To Mr. Arlott, this was a matter of principle, and I and many others admired him for the stand that he took.
I think that a number of journalists were involved in similar circumstances. I recall that some journalists on The Guardian said that they would not report the cricket tour if the South African team came here. They probably stood to be 1618 penalised in some way, possibly on grounds of racialism, but, under this Bill, it would have been wide open to their employers to take action against them.
Let me refer to a third example. We now have a law permitting abortion in certain cases. It is said that nurses and doctors cannot be compelled to take part in abortions if the operation is against their religious principles or they disagree with the Act. As I understand it, the Act states that no medical practitioner can be compelled to take part in an abortion. We accept that. But when it comes to a trade unionists who may have equally strong grounds for refusing to take part in the manufacture of arms for South Africa or even in loading them on a ship, we now propose to say that it will be unfair industrial action if he stands out against it.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ashton
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) says that it must be to induce a third party, but that would be easy to prove. It could be said that he was inducing a third party by taking the action himself, by setting up as a martyr, by setting an example. In that way, it could be said that Mr. John Arlott was inducing a third party.
Once this part of the Bill become law, we shall turn away from principles which the trade union movement has held dear for a long time, and we shall have to resort to lawyers in court deciding whether an action was inducement. It is a bad part of the Bill and I hope that the Solicitor-General will take note of the Amendment and that, if necessary, we shall vote for it.
§ Mr. Michael Grylls (Chertsey)
I was somewhat surprised to hear the references to South Africa, because if people feel strongly about working in industries which may be taking part in providing or manufacturing arms for South Africa, and no doubt many will so feel that, they will have an absolute right to do so and will have the clear option of being able to change their jobs. Nobody will be able to make them go ahead and do a job if they do not wish to do so. The object of the Clause is to stop 1619 outside people from trying to induce other to go on strike. The issue of arms to South Africa is an absolute red herring, because nobody is trying to stop anybody who has a conscientious objection.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
The Rolls-Royce workers are anxious that a number of Buccaneer aircraft should be sold to South Africa, because those aircraft have Rolls-Royce engines and I do not think that those workers would give up their jobs because Buccaneers are going to South Africa.
§ Mr. Grylls
I agree. I should have thought that only a very few people would want to exercise a conscientious objection. It should be made perfectly clear that there is nothing said or implied in the Bill which would in any way prevent their having a conscientious objection.
§ Mr. Tom King
When my hon. Friend speaks of changing jobs, I presume that he means changing jobs inside a works and not moving to another works.
§ Mr. Grylls
That was a helpful intervention. Apparently, I did not make myself as clear as I had hoped, but that is clearly the common-sense explanation of what I was saying. Most of the companies likely to be involved in the supply of arms to South Africa would be large industrial enterprises and, if it were not possible to find a job in some corner of that enterprise where the conscientious objection could be satisfied, I should be very surprised.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
This country has a noble record of dealing with the problem of conscientious objections, particularly in wartime. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), I have always strongly supported the view that no one should be compelled against his sincere conscientious belief to participate in war, or in membership of the trade union. Here we are asked to go much further, and I am not sure where it would stop.
If a decision is taken by democratically elected Government to do a certain thing, anybody who then pays taxes is by implication supporting that cause. Similarly, anybody who works in any process in any industry during a period of war or some civil commotion will be participating in 1620 that cause, even by contributing to the total taxation of the country itself, for example, trading with South Africa.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important constitutional matter. Is he suggesting that by the mere fact that we happen to pay taxes to the duly elected Government we are deemed to be backing all the policies of that Government? If so, the rate of emigration will be very high indeed.
§ Mr. Gower
I am saying that this is an example of the measures by which people unwittingly but inevitably contribute to certain policies laid down by the democratically elected Government. Let us pursue that further.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) has proposed that we should permit an individual with a conscientious objection actively to engineer a trade dispute and other actions against the policy of the democratically elected Government, whether right or wrong.
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
Is the hon. Gentleman putting nurses and doctors on the same footing when they refuse to take part in abortions?
§ Mr. Gower
We have made a definite exception for a narrow group of people, and that is very different. Here there would be no such limitation.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne, I take the view that no individual should be allowed to carry his objection further and actively to canvass for and engineer disputes designed to thwart the policies of the elected Government. The elected Government, whether Conservative, Labour or Liberal, have to answer for their sins of omission or commission to the electorate. That is the proper process. It is not the right process that a policy is decided by the elected Government and may then be thwarted by persons who, for reasons of conscience or other reasons, may want to carry their objections further and deliberately to defeat the policy of the Government, the administration, the local council, or whatever it may be.
§ Mr. Prentice
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if it is decided to resume the sale of arms to South Africa and there is a public meeting addressed by a 1621 speaker from the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, the Council of Churches, or the United Nations Association, against the sale of arms to South Africa, and if in the course of that speech he says that he hopes that the workers will not co-operate with the programme, he may be subject to the sanction of damages under the Bill? Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that that is an intolerable interference with our traditional liberties?
§ Mr. Gower
The right hon. Gentleman is posing that in an extreme fashion, and I understand why. It is permissible for anybody at a public meeting to try to alter public opinion and to persuade those attending the meeting that it would be proper for the Government, or their successors, to change the policy. It would not be right for such a person to go into an industrial organisation and persuade others to take part in a stoppage or lock-out deliberately to support such a view. That is why, with all my deep sympathy for the man who wants to object on the grounds of conscience, I do not regard this as a legitimate Amendment.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I should not have sought to intervene had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). He advanced the strangest constitutional doctrines which did more to undermine the basic principles which hon. Members in all parts of the Committee have fought to preserve than anything I have heard for a long time, but I pay him the supreme compliment of saying that I am sure that he did so unwittingly. Secondly, he hypothecated a situation that one might be allowed the gentle art of persuasion at a meeting, but one must not go very much further because to do so would be a desperate industrial action which would cause grave damage to the economy of the country.
§ Mr. Thorpe
We are not talking about wartime, unless the Government are thinking of some Vietnam in which they may indulge; I hope that 1956 was the last time that a Conservative Government went to war and that even the Conservatives have learned their lesson.
However much any citizen pays in taxation, of course he has the right to dissent from the Government's action. 1622 The only restriction is not that imposed by the politicians, it is that which is imposed by the law. Provided the protest is peaceful and does not involve a breach of the law or of the peace it is perfectly legal.
Because we have clearly established that, we must be careful before we extend the scope of the restrictions of the law upon the freedom of the citizen to dissent. Therefore, this doctrine that those who pay tax are deemed to support the policies of the Government on, for example, the issue of South African arms is a totally new constitutional departure and, in my view, an extremely dangerous one.
We are opposed to the second limb of the hon. Gentleman's argument which, as I understand it, is that if someone from the World Council of Churches—or any one of those respectable organisations mentioned, which still take a fairly moral view of the question of arms to South Africa—attended a meeting and said that those arms should not be manufactured that would be all right. That would be the gentle art of persuasion.
But if we had the Lancashire cotton workers' situation of 100 years ago, under the Bill as drafted it would be perfectly in order for one trade unionist to say, "I am sorry, I will not work because I do not want to back up slavery in the Southern States of the United States". However, if he were to approach one other trade unionist—and that is what the word "induce" means—and say, "Look, are you aware of what you are doing? Are you aware that by continuing to work on this contract you are underpinning the system of slavery in the Southern States of the United States?" he would then be committing an offence.
There are no two ways about it. That is inducing for the purposes of this Bill. It is legal for one man but the moment he transmits the reasons for his action to another with a view to persuading that other to take a similar course of action he is then inducing and committing an offence under the Bill. What we are trying to do in the Bill is to allow those who have a conscientious objection to transmit the reasons for that objection and if necessary induce others to follow their example.
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)
There is nothing in the Bill which would prevent a trade unionist asking another trade unionist or another party or individual to stop supplying arms to South Africa or to stop supporting slavery in the southern States of the United States, as long as they did it in accordance with their contract, freely entered into. It is only when they are in breach of contract that this situation arises.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen) rose——
§ The Chairman
Order. It is much better not to have an interjection upon an interjection—but if the right hon. Gentleman really prefers it that way——
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
It goes further than my hon. Friend says. A person may induce another to break a contract and, if he does that, if he is a trade unionist or a representative of a trade union or of an employers association, he can induce a person to break the contract under Clause 85(1)(a).
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for raising the point, but I do not think that it takes us very much further.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke rose——
§ Mr. Thorpe
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman answers the question which he has posed to me, perhaps he will allow me to answer that question. All that we are saying is that if individuals find it repugnant to carry out certain work which may come under the umbrella of the contract they are perfectly entitled not to do it. That is generally accepted and is written into the Bill.
The moment an individual transmits that information and makes known his intentions, the minute he makes known his reasons to any of his fellow workers on the shop-floor, it becomes an offence under the Bill. We are saying that that is a nonsense, contrary to the whole doctrine of conscientious objection which we have defended in this country, under all political parties, and therefore this is a Clause which should be amended in the way suggested.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Thorpe
First of all I would say that neither of us should presume to interpret the word "induce". That is a matter for the courts. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) will know that there is a long series of precedents as to the interpretation of the word "induce".
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am delighted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has them because this Government during last week has sadly lacked any good legal advice particularly in regard to the Rolls-Royce case. The fact that they are now bringing their cribs with them shows that they are at least taking an interest.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The right hon. and learned Gentleman and I might have an exchange on that ground a little later on—with reference to particular cases in which he was involved. All I would say to the hon. Member for Barry, who I know is anxious to hear the reply, is that the word "induce" has been construed in the courts in a very narrow sense indeed. In its narrowest sense it is merely the transmission of information from one employee to another.
I concede the point that he has made—in its ultimate it could mean a complete lock-out. I entirely accept that. It could mean that one individual as a result of the information he transmits not only persuades one employee but all employees in the shop to come out on strike. I accept that. I believe it is right that it should be written in the Bill and I unhesitatingly accept the logic of his conclusion. It is a conclusion which I believe is part of the conscientious rights which we have accorded to the citizen, and I do not see why the trade union movement should be an exception to the rule.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
I will not begin swopping degrees of learning with the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). I fancy that the first time I saw his name in writing was when he signed a letter as President of the Oxford Law Society, a long time ago, so he has the credentials to talk about this. I would like the right hon. Member, and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) to consider that here, as in many other places, we are balancing two different factors. The factor which is running through the Bill and which becomes salient at Clause 85 is that unless the existing law is changed we have a situation in which strikes in breach of individual contracts of employment can be induced for any reason without notice. This is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott).
This is at the heart of the prevalence of wild-cat, unofficial unconstitutional strikes which it is agreed on all sides are at the root of the problems in British industry. Clause 85 sets out to limit the right to induce strikes in breach of contract. That is a legitimate and important objective of the Bill. On the other hand I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles and others, including the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) that we have to be concerned to protect the rights of individual workers in respect of their conscientious views.
This point is common to the rights of conscience which should be accorded to an individual worker in relation to the trade unions too. We must acknowledge the parallelism of the point and that is why we attach importance to it on both sides of the Committee. The point was put in one sense by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) when he said that workers must remain free, "If they so desire and they are not directed by anybody else to withdraw their labour, if they have a conscientious objection to any work that is being undertaken." With that there is no quarrel at all. The Bill makes no difference to that. It certainly does not affect it adversely in any way.
I should like to say a word en passant about the Abortion Act. The Act ex- 1626 pressly gives the right of conscientious objection in respect of abortions to every individual, as the hon. Gentleman knows——
§ The Solicitor-General
The right of individuals to refrain from their work if they have a conscientious objection to it is unimpaired.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is perfectly possible for workers to refrain from work on conscientious grounds. If they did, they would be breaking their contracts of employment in certain circumstances. But that is the position today.
§ The Solicitor-General
There is a number of different possibilities, but let us consider the position if a worker is suddenly confronted with a fundamental change in his conditions of work. Perhaps he has been making aspirins and is suddenly required to make the pill, without any notice, and he may be affronted in conscience by that. It would depend on the precise facts of any given situation as to whether he breaks his contract of employment. He could well argue that it was a fundamental change of the terms under which he was engaged and that he was entitled to walk out. It would depend on the precise job he was doing. That is no different from the present law under which whether he breaks his contract of employment is a matter for decision.
The Bill goes further than that. As a result of it two additional matters come into play to assist the worker in that situation. The Committee will probably agree that the first is no more than a declaration of the present law. Clause 114 sets out beyond doubt, quite plainly, that no court shall by way of an order or injunctioncompel an employee to do any work or to attend at any place for the purpose of doing any work.In other words, that which is probably part of the law is there set out. The 1627 individual workers' right to walk out cannot be overriden by the Clause.
The other point is that if at present a worker who wished to protest on conscience grounds at the change of his terms and conditions of employment walked out, then, depending on whether it was a change that justified him in walking out, he could be dismissed by his employer. If the employer could show that the worker had no justification for walking out the worker would have no remedy, because it would not be a wrongful dismissal. As a result of the unfair dismissal provisions in the Bill, if the worker exercises his conscientious right, as he sees it, and walks out, and the employer sacks him because he thinks that the employee had no such right, the worker would be entitled to say that the dismissal was unfair.
Once the Bill was on the Statute Book the tribunal would be able to say whether in all the circumstances it was a fair or reasonable dismissal. So the worker has a new right. He has it plainly enshrined that he cannot be compelled to do the job, and also has the right to say, "I was quite unreasonably dismissed so far as invasion of the liberty of individuals is concerned."
I shall come to the point of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) in a moment, because it is different. The Bill does not affect the individual's right adversely, but puts him in a rather stronger position.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
With great respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, it does affect the right of the worker with regard to the terms of persuasion of a fellow worker, which can never be finally interpreted at law in any shape or form, no matter how the other Clauses try to encourage various situations and so on. How about the worker who, because of dangerous conditions which can suddenly arise, refuses to do his particular work, as is his right under the Measure, and who seeks as a trade union official to advise a fellow worker that it would be similarly dangerous for him, and that he would be absolutely mad to continue to work in those circumstances? He would be inducing his fellow worker to break the provisions of the Bill.
§ The Solicitor-General
May I answer with a legitimate debating point and then come to the substance of the matter. The hon. Gentleman asked us to suppose that a man, as a trade union official, induces workers to come out on strike. He would be protected by the provisions of the Clauses, because he would do that as a trade union official.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn) rose——
§ The Solicitor-General
Perhaps I may come to the underlying substance of the hon. Gentleman's intervention before I give way to the right hon. Lady. If the inducing was carried out because of dangerous conditions of work by someone who was not a trade union official the situation is this. Assume that the National Coal Board suddenly made a coal face that was not in compliance with the 1954 Act, or a factory temperature changed so as not to comply with the Factories Acts, or assume many of the other examples given in our debates. Such a change of conditions producing that result would amount to a breach by the employer amounting to a breach of the contract, and the workers would be entitled to cease work because of that.
Suppose that the employer has produced a dangerous work place and his workpeople are induced to leave work by an unofficial leader. If he were so foolish as to try to restrain them or to obtain compensation, which seems very improbable, he would be met by Clause 102(3). The court would find that the unfair action had been caused or contributed to by the action of aggrieved party, the employer, and would reduce its assessment of his loss to nothing.
So there are three different answers to the hon. Gentleman's point. First, if the man is a trade union official acting within the scope of his authority there is no problem. Second, if it is a breach of the work place conditions amounting to a breach of the employer's obligations, again there is no problem. Third, if the employer were foolish enough to bring proceedings he would get nowhere on Clause 102(3).
§ Mrs. Castle
The Solicitor-General corrected himself later on the point I was going to raise with him. He said earlier 1629 that a trade union official would be covered automatically, but he later said that he would be covered if he was a trade union official acting within the scope of his authority. I just want to get on the record that the fact that a man is a trade union official is not a cover. There is the second gateway to go through, namely, the question of what authority under the rules may have been delegated to him. That, therefore, is one of the obstacles to the effective freedom of action of the local trade union official that we objected to earlier under the registration proposals. I am right, am I not?
§ The Solicitor-General
The right hon. Lady is certainly right. I inadvertently compressed the phrase. It is the trade union official acting within the scope of his authority who is covered. As the right hon. Lady says, that authority will be determined by the rules of the union. We have a further debate on a subsequent Amendment on the different aspects of this.
But this really brings us back to the original question, the proposal whereby the right to induce strikes in breach of contract of employment should be limited or restricted in some way.
I move on to the position of the inducer, which was raised principally by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North. The position of the inducer, as in many of the examples cited, would probably be no different from that of the inducer under the present law. A number of examples were cited of the possible causes of strike action that might well on present law not fall within the terms of "trade dispute" anyway. Certain strikes in respect of some of the examples given might not be so covered, so that in some of those areas there is no significant change in the law.
Let us look at the case of the World Council of Churches spokesman speaking at a public meeting and saying that it is wrong for Smiths Armaments, or whatever the firm may be, to supply arms to South Africa, and that it should forth-with discontinue that supply and that contract. Even under present law he could be described as inducing or attempting to induce Smiths Armaments to break its commercial contract. That is a situation which can arise in many circumstances now. There are many con- 1630 tracts, apart from contracts of employment, where, what somebody is saying could or could not be described as amounting to an attempt to induce such a breach. So that he is already, in this or in many other situations, on one view, under some restraint as to the freedom with which he speaks.
However, we do not envisage actions being brought in respect of speeches of that kind being made freely. The reason is that there is no presumption that when I or any other hon. Member says that the supply of arms to such-and-such should be stopped, or that any other activity should be stopped, we are intending the supplier to discontinue in breach of his contract. There is certainly no presumption, if he follows that advice, that he does so as a result of what we have said. It is a very unrealistic and unlikely concept. In the operation of the Clause, which relates to inducing people to break their contracts of employment, this is the central situation.
Suppose that it is an inducing in the context of an industrial dispute, in other words, that the situation can clearly be one where the inducer is trying to get people to strike to change their contracts of employment on conscientious grounds, as it could be put. Again, if he is a registered union or an official acting within the scope of his authorities, there is no problem.
But there is the more fundamental answer. Why is it necessary or right in that situation for the inducer to be given the freedom to induce breaches of contract of employment? If workpeople at a workplace are confronted with a situation to which, on conscientious or other grounds, they object, they can themselves withdraw their labour or persuade their trade union or official to threaten an immediate withdrawal of labour to get the situation altered.
If the workpeople cannot so persuade their union, or if there is no union, they can themselves give notice that they will discontinue work on that contract in accordance with their contract of employment. If the change in working conditions is such as to drastically alter their situation, they can go beyond that and say, "This is a fundamental change in our employment and in itself is a breach".
1631 To the extent I have indicated, all those rights remain, both to workpeople and to unions on their behalf. The only restraint is that in certain circumstances it should be done in accordance with the terms of their individual contract of employment. That is central, and it is that which I submit to the Committee remains as requiring to be central.
§ Mr. Orme
Surely what is central to the argument is not the employees who are making aspirins one day and the pill the next. We are concerned about workers engaged on making Buccaneer aircraft, say, which are being sold to Government generally and perhaps to our own Government and then orders are made to sell them to South Africa. If those workers then take action, that is in breach of contract and they are fully trapped under the terms of the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted the point.
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not want us to be led down a false trail. If those workers then take action and break their own contracts of employment, they are no more liable than they are today and, for the reasons I have given, no less liable. If they walk out, their rights are greater under the Bill than they would be under present law. If their union or union official within the scope of his authority seeks to persuade them to walk out—this is the only narrow situation where it is relevant—again his right is the same as it is today.
We say that it is not right or necessary to confer a right upon an unofficial person to induce all his workmates to strike without regard to the length of their original contracts of employment, even in the situation now before the Committee. That is the limit we are seeking to preserve.
§ Mr. Prentice
May I pose a question in personal terms? I have spoken recently at many meetings against the proposal to sell arms to South Africa. I have been asked whether I thought that workers involved in making and handling those arms should refuse to do so, and I have said, "Yes, they should refuse to do so". If I continue to say that after the Bill is on the Statute Book, am I or am I not liable to actions for damages? If I am, I put it to the right hon. and 1632 learned Gentleman that this is an invasion of the right of free speech. The Solicitor-General must define and defend this if he can.
§ The Solicitor-General
On the right hon. Gentleman's specific point, it would not follow from the facts which he has given that he would be liable in this situation for two reasons. It could not be concluded that what he was saying in fact had the result of inducing those people to break their contracts of employment. Nor would it follow that the right hon. Gentleman was expecting, requiring or intending them to do so in breach of their contracts of employment.
We are here faced with two factors to take into account. The Committee must assert the proposition that reasonable discussion, reasonable debate, can take place without anyone being thought likely to be caught by this provision, but that in any event it should take place upon the footing that there is no necessity in this situation for people to get other people to break their contracts of employment. That is the factor we put forward.
§ Mr. Prentice
If, in the situation which I described, the court were to decide that the effect of the words of the speaker had had some appreciable effect on the decision of workers to withdraw their labour, I take it that that speaker would be caught by this provision.
§ The Solicitor-General
Under this provision, if it were in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute, the example which the right hon. Gentleman gives may or may not be dependent upon to whom and where he was speaking. For example, if the right hon. Gentleman were speaking at a general discussion or meeting, he would not be speaking in contemplation or furtherance of a given industrial dispute; and he would be in the same position as under the present law. But if in contemplation of a particular dispute, with a view to getting people to break their contracts of employment, he said what he has just quoted, and as a result of that, in breach of their contracts and without giving notice, the workpeople ceased work, he would be so liable. But they themselves would not be liable. This is the balance.
We are entrenching and enshrining the right of individuals to quit labour according to their conscience or for any other 1633 reason. We are also trying to restrict the right of calling people out on strike in breach of their contracts of employment. This is a part of this provision, and it is very important. It should be clearly understood that we are today in the presence of the result of 60 years of history and 60 years of the present state of Statute law. The 1906 Act included a provision concerning the right to induce breaches of contracts of employment. That was not in the recommendations of the contemporary Royal Commission, and it was not in the Bill as introduced by the Liberal Party at that time, nor in the Bill introduced by the Labour Representation Committee at that time; they were half a dozen words in an Amendment from Sir Charles Dilke. That is the foundation of something which has led to many of our present troubles and difficulties.
In many other countries and systems of law, and indeed, under our own on a better view, the right to persuade people to break their contracts of employment in pursuance of an industrial dispute does not exist and is in no sense necessary as a foundation for the right to strike. It is this which is at the heart of the situation of irresponsibility in which anyone and everyone has felt increasingly free as the years have passed to induce his fellow workers to break his contract of employment at the drop of a hat. It is for that reason that, to the limit proposed by the majority of the Donovan Commission, the Clause is an important Clause in the Bill.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
As the Solicitor-General has quoted that historic occasion, is he not under a duty, so that the Committee will be fully informed, to state the reason why it was done? Surely it was not an aberration on the part of Sir Charles Dilke or anybody else. It was done after 50 years of debate, because the workman does not own his means of production and the man who owns his means of production and who pays the workman his wages is in a far more powerful position. Therefore, if workers were to be able to assert their rights it was essential that they should not be liable for what is technically called a breach of contract. The Solicitor-General wants to change that historical right of working people.
§ The Solicitor-General
First, the situation is very different from that which 1634 prevailed 60 years ago. Second, what we are not in any way seeking to do is to change the right of individual work people to quit their workplace. Indeed, we are making that plainer. Nor are we seeking to change the right of anyone to persuade them to quit their workplace in accordance with the terms of their contract of employment. We are enshrining the right of the union and of its official in the course of his duty and in his authority to do just that. This is a sensible balance which I commend to the Committee, and it is a reasonable restraint. It goes very close to the matter which every analyst has identified as the main cause of our persistence of unofficial, wildcat, unconstitutional strikes.
In the context of this, to go as far as the Amendment proposes is unnecessary, for the reasons that I have stated, and would extend the immunity, as my hon Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) pointed out, over a very wide and ill-defined field.
Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
The Solicitor-General has once again indicated how confusing the situation can become as a result of the Bill. He said at one stage that the Clause is designed to stop irresponsible action on the part of workers taken at the drop of a hat. A little earlier he had said that if individual workers wished to take strike action under the Bill when enacted they were entitled to do so. I therefore assume that individual workers who felt so strongly that they were prepared to walk out would walk out at the drop of a hat.
On the other hand, the Solicitor-General says that this is what the Clause is designed to stop; it is designed to catch those who are inducing workers so to act. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) postulated circumstances in which he, addressing a meeting on the question of arms for South Africa, not merely made a speech in a general discussion but said to the workers involved, "I think that you should down tools and refuse to load arms for South Africa". That would be inducing. The Solicitor-: General admits that on that basis my right hon. Friend could be in trouble, although a few minutes earlier the hon. and learned Gentleman said that my 1635 right hon. Friend might be in trouble but then again he might not be in trouble; he was not sure whether my right hon. Friend would be in trouble or would not be in trouble. It is fantastic that the Solicitor-General does not know precisely what the position is. In the end what it boils down to is that my right hon. Friend would be in trouble if he made such a statement.
§ [Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ During the height of the Biafran war Liverpool dock workers refused to handle weapons destined for Nigeria. How does one determine the responsibility for that action? If all those workers walked out spontaneously at the drop of a hat, no one would be in trouble.
§ How is the position reached at which the workers walk out? Some mythical person must make a speech. It could be my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North, but it could be a staunch local Roman Catholic docker who says to his workmates, "These arms will be used in Nigeria against the Biafrans, whom I support, and I do not think that we should send the arms". That man would be inducing the workers to take that action, unless he were a trade union official acting under the authority of his union. His union might not have taken a decision to ban arms for Biafra. He may be a trade union official who is not acting under the authority of his union, in which case he would be in trouble under the Clause.
§ Mr. Tom McMillan (Glasgow, Central)
In the present situation, before an unofficial or wildcat strike occurs there is a meeting and it is decided to post safety men at various points so that no harm can come to the factory or anyone in it. The Solicitor-General now says that men can walk out at the drop of a hat. Danger could result from that.
§ Mr. Heffer
That is true. This reveals the Solicitor-General's lack of knowledge as to how unofficial disputes arise. It is unusual for an unofficial dispute to arise without there having been lengthy discussion amongst the workers and an atmosphere building up over a period. The idea that workers lay down their tools and 1636 walk out at the drop of a hat is not in line with reality.
Workers will note that in future as long as they have no meetings and no discussions but just automatically walk out individually, though collectively it adds up to 10,000 dockers, it will be all right. The Solicitor-General knows that this is absurd.
The Leader of the Liberal Party asked, in an aside, why the Labour Party had not tabled an Amendment since we support this Amendment. I confirm that we support this Amendment. We had intended to table an Amendment on Report, but at this moment we are dealing with the basic principles involved in the Bill as it affects the trade union movement and the working class in general; and on that basis we thought that this was not the stage at which to discuss it. However, now that the matter has been raised, we will support the Liberal Party if there is a Division.
I hope that at this stage of the proceedings the Liberals will change their line on the Bill. Those Liberals of the past who were responsible for the 1906 Act and fought hard for the rights of the trade union movement must be spinning round in their graves when they hear what the Liberal Party is doing in relation to this Bill. I urge the Liberals to reconsider their position and once again be genuinely liberal. There may be only two votes here, but at least the Liberals could put pressure on their hon. Friends to support the Labour Party on this. I agree with my hon. Friend that the Clause is an infringement of liberty and imposes a restriction on our rights. The whole Bill is an infringement of liberty and of the democratic rights of the British people. On that basis I ask my hon. Friends to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)
I ask my right hon. and learned Friend seriously to consider leaving Clause 85 out of the Bill. I do not think it assists the Bill and it adds complications. One of the first difficulties will be in the courts in understanding what Parliament meant when it passed the Bill and interpreting it. That is all very well for lawyers—and I speak more as an advocate than a lawyer—but how is the ordinary chap on the floor of the factory to begin to understand the 150 Clauses in 1637 the Bill and how they affect his personal rights?
I do not like the word "induce", and I ask the learned Solicitor-General whether the word "induce" is as good as "a nod is as good as a wink". I am a little worried about the situation of the Government in relation to the Rolls-Royce contract. Can they be said to have induced a breach of that contract?—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say "No". I hope they are right because I happen to be on the Government side of the House, although my last remarks may not have led hon. Members to think so.
If the Clause is not to be dropped altogether, I suggest that the word "induce" should be supplemented by "malicious conspiracy". There is all the difference between a casual inducement and a thoroughly nastly-minded attempt to break up a contract unfairly and unnecessarily. The word "conspiracy has been known to the law of England, and in particular to the criminal law, for generations, and I suppose everyone has a mild idea of what it means. It derives from "conspire", which initially in law meant "they breathe together". If it is ever held in the courts that people have conspired together, there must be an element of dishonesty or malice within that entirety. I do not find that in law on the basis of "inducement", and that is why I ask the learned Solicitor-General to look again at the Clause so that not only lawyers but ordinary British people and workmen can understand it.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
In these discussions we should concentrate on the point at which the attack on the freedom of working people is made and not try to broaden the attack too widely so that we miss the real purpose of the legislation. I find it more than strange that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party should attend this session of the Committee and make a general attack on Clause 85 because, as he said, we must be particularly careful not to allow any extension of the law which will limit the freedom of individuals, when, until now, in all the Clauses which we have debated he has found no Clause to attack and no Amendment to support. He did not confine himself to the danger of the situation described by his hon. 1638 Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) but, in an attack on the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), he said that we must be careful not to allow the extension of the law in this respect, when it is precisely the extension of the law into industrial relations that is the purpose of the Bill—not only of Clause 85. The Leader of the Liberal Party is disqualified from making these general assertions in this debate.
The real matter is not the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). Where an outside person goes into a factory and asks a group of work people to refuse to fulfil their engagement, as things stand today, I do not believe that could not lead to action, but no action is taken because it is held that such action would not succeed.
The Clause and the Bill are not aimed at the freedom of the Press or the freedom to write articles. The Clause is not trying to abolish, either at a stroke or at the drop of one vanguard, the freedom of the Press and the freedom of speech. We would be making life too easy for the Government if we made that the main burden of our critique. The Bill is meant to destroy the right of shop stewards and working people to take action on conscientious or other grounds if they see fit to do so. This is the attack which we have to nail.
It may be a matter for argument what the courts would hold under the existing law if a Member of Parliament or a bishop of the Established or any other Church went into a factory and told people to do this or that, but that is not what we have in mind. I do not believe that this legislation would lead to a Member of Parliament being prosecuted for saying in Gloucester, "I think it is highly immoral to work in order to supply Vanguards to South Africa." The burden of the Clause is more definite, and represents an attack on the right of an individual, or of an individual with a group of his colleagues working in a factory in Gloucester where such production is going on who get together and say they do not intend to work under an existing contract of employment because they deeply object to the deliveries that will be made of the product which they are producing.
1639 As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has said, none of these disputes arises at the drop of a hat. It only shows that the Solicitor-General is no further ahead than the columnist in the Sunday Express in his knowledge of industrial relations when he speaks as he has done this afternoon——
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On the point made by the Solicitor-General about strikes taking place at the drop of a hat, I left my place of work after twenty years without having been involved in a strike until October, 1969—and I had been trying.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mendelson
We take note of my hon. Friend's telling point. The description of people being so indifferent to reason and argument that at a drop of a hat they would down tools and go on strike is typical of the cloud-cuckoo-land sort of atmosphere in which Conservative Members regard industrial relations. This is why employers, when they hear what the Government Front Bench is saying on this Bill, do not take them seriously.
The serious point involves the rights of groups of people to take action and to have discussions with other people to seek to persuade them to join in that action leading to a threat being made to an employer. The Bill tries to limit the right of such people to go to employers and to threaten them with potential action. This is far more typical of what goes on in industry than the actual downing of tools. Such discussions take place throughout the country. Here is where in intimating purpose of the Bill shows its ugly face once again. Jack Jones said the other day that this will be the charter of the informer. It will lead certain people to take part in discussions and then run to employers to tell on their colleagues. This shows the dangerous and nefarious purposes of the Bill.
The reply of the Solicitor-General was wholly unsatisfactory. He, as the responsible Law Officer, has no idea of the effect of the Clause, and yet he is supposed to be advising the Cabinet on these provisions. This particular provision will provide a gateway for a fundamental attack on the rights of working people to act as hitherto they have been entitled to act. His reference to the extensive 1640 nature of the introduction of this right at the time of the 1906 Act betrays his attitude on this matter since he suppressed the fact that it had been preceded by 50 years of debate.
The fundamental principle involved is that the trade unions should not agree to the introduction of legal provisions in regard to their own activities, although such provisions may apply to many other cases. The trade unions never supported the idea that people in factory workshops should be limited in this way by being prevented from exercising their fundamental rights. This is yet another reason for supporting the Amendment.
§ Mr. David Steel
The hon. Members for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and Salford, West (Mr. Orme) indicated their warm support for this Amendment by the roasting nature of their speeches. They have had some fun at Liberal expense. We do not agree on our respective attitudes to the Bill. We supported the Second Reading of the Bill as aimed at bringing in a new framework of law—a framework which was shared by the previous Administration—and we are keeping an open mind on the progress of the Bill in Committee. We have supported some Amendments and not others. Our minds are not made up on how we shall vote on Third Reading. If the replies given to Amendments so far, the non-discussion of many Clauses, and certainly the reply on this Amendment are any guide as to how the Bill is to proceed, our attitude on Third Reading is not likely to be favourable.
Hon. Members on this side of the House have criticised us for not being here to march through the Lobbies all night.
§ Mr. Steel
The hon. Member for Salford, West has severely criticised us—I make no complaint about it for he is entitled to do so—for not being here night after night during proceedings on the Bill to vote on Clauses which have not even been discussed. This has been done as a deliberate policy. We have said, and I believe we carry public opinion with us, that this House does itself no good by this sort of performance night after night.
§ Mr. Steel
The hon. Gentleman may not agree with us but that is our opinion. We shall stick to it through the rest of the debates.
To return to the Amendment, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) mentioned the case of Mr. John Arlott on the precedents of a conscience clause and also referred to the Abortion Act. In Committee on that legislation we accepted that there should be a specific provision to that effect written into the Bill and the wording of my Amendment is taken from that provision. That Amendment was to effect that no nurse, or hospital orderly, would be involved in any operation if they had a conscientious objection. This may mean that the work of the hospital in that particular matter may be brought to a halt, but that conscientious objection is maintained. We felt it right to do that in order to recognise any strong conscientious objections which might arise. It did not invalidate the rest of the Act. I reject the Solicitor-General's argument that we should not recognise a conscientious objection for fear of bringing the whole work of the Industrial Relations Bill to a halt.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) did not grasp the point about the danger facing journalists, Members of Parliament, and possibly even ministers of religion, in arguing their case. Let us take as an example the contract for the Wasp helicopters. Let us suppose that the workers in the factory or one of the many factories involved in the contract decided to break the contract and to cease working. Let us also suppose that this followed an editorial in The Guardian or The Times, or a sermon in the local church, copies of which were then distributed to the workers. Surely an employer, faced with such a situation, would say that Clause 85 gave him an open invitation to say that, as a result of what was said in a newspaper editorial or by a Member of Parliament, workers in the industry were induced to break their contract, and that employer would surely feel entitled to action against them. This is the point with which we are concerned.
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) was right to make the point that we are principally concerned with protecting the rigths of work people themselves to exercise their conscience. 1642 We had a similar Amendment down to Clause 34 but it was not selected, so we are forced to discuss the mater on this Amendment. We are as concerned with this as we are about the newspapers.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I am pleased to have the hon. Gentleman's support for Amendment No. 753, which advocates exactly the kind of thing he has been speaking about. Can I count on the support of the Liberal Party on that Amendment?
§ Mr. Steel
I assume that, if it has been selected, Amendment No. 753 is on the list. [HON. MEMBERS: "Next one."] In that case, there is a fair chance of our reaching it. But if the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) is inviting me to cast a vote on a subject which has not even been discussed, I must decline to commit myself. I shall listen to what he has to say. Meanwhile, I trust that he will agree with my Amendment.
§ Mr. Tom King
The hon. Gentleman has rather sketched over the point about conscience. He quoted the example of the Abortion Act, in which this matter is strictly defined. But how would he cover the point, for example, about an anarchist who, generally speaking, believes in the destruction of modern industrial society? If the anarchist is sincere, he will believe in that most conscientiously. Would not the hon. Gentleman's Amendment destroy that case?
§ Mr. Steel
I do not think so. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that many precedents have been quoted in discussion of what does and what does not constitute a question of conscience. We need not chase that red herring.
There is another point of fundamental departure between the Liberal Party and the Government in their attitudes to the Bill. The Solicitor-General more or less said that strikes in breach of contract were at the heart of the wild-cat strikes, which in turn were at the heart of the problems facing British industry and, therefore, the Government could not accept the Amendment because it would then be at the heart of strikes in breach of contract. This is a build up of logic which we do not accept. We do not, indeed, accept the inflated claims made 1643 for the Bill. We do not share the delusions of the Government that the Bill has the vast importance that they attach to it.
Moreover, when the hon. and learned Gentleman refers me to Clause 114 and points out that the Industrial Court cannot compel a person to work or return to his work and that therefore a person's right is somehow protected, he does not answer the point. What we are afraid of is not that the court could compel a person to return to his work but that it could penalise him for breaking his contract. That is the point at issue. Nor can we ride away by saying that perhaps in certain circumstances there might be fundamental changes in work agreements—for example, a transfer from making aspirins to making the pill. That was a far-fetched argument by the Solicitor-General.
The whole point at issue on the Bill is about new contracts being assumed to be enforceable. It is in that context that we must look carefully to ensure that we are not ensnaring in this doctrine some of the rights of free speech, of argument, of political difference and of conscientious difference. I believe that Clause 85 does just as it stands, however; I am dissatisfied with the Solicitor-General's reply; and I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the Committee on the Amendment.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
The way in which Clause 85 is drafted shows that the Government are becoming victims of their own propaganda. In the debate on the Consultative Document, I tried to make the point that, if we were not careful, we should reach a position in which a shop steward would be charged with inducing his colleagues to strike if he used certain words such as, "Failure to agree", which is common practice in the engineering industry. The Solicitor-General talked about the shop steward acting within the scope of his authority, and that, I suppose, was a paraphrase of Clause 85(1)(b).
I do not take the view—and I think that this is paramount to the Bill as a whole—that what the hon. and learned Gentleman describes as "wild-cat strikes" are necessarily unofficial strikes. 1644 In other words—and I have had some experience here—as I read, for example, the rule book of the A.E.F., a shop steward in certain conditions is well within his rights in calling an unofficial strike. The rule book would say, in effect, that, if, in the opinion of the shop steward, the management were trying to take away from his colleagues some principle which they had won over the years, he would be entitled to bring them out on strike. If, on the other hand, he was trying to get new concessions, then he would have no right to call a strike until he had gone through the constitution. In this respect, I believe that the Government are in grave danger of misunderstanding—perhaps wilfully, perhaps not—the powers which such a man has. Unless we read the rule book in the way I have suggested, the shop steward will be charged with not acting within the scope of his authority and therefore not representing his trade union.
The Bill has been conceived, as the Solicitor-General told us, as a method of cutting down unofficial strikes. None of us is saying that we want to see an increase in unofficial strikes or in any other sort of strike. What I am arguing is that Clause 85 as it stands takes for granted that, if an unofficial strike is caused by a shop steward, that by itself pre-supposes that he is acting outside the scope of his own authority. I would not accept that for a moment. I believe that the way in which Clause 85 is drafted presupposes that, until there has been a reference outside the factory, until an issue has gone through the whole of the constitution, a strike must not be called, and that, if one is called, then an official of the union—in this case, the shop steward—is acting outside the scope of his authority.
I take it, therefore, that the Clause is saying that the Government will no longer permit a position in which a shop steward, having called a meeting of his colleagues and told them of his belief that the management is acting outside the scope of the agreement, says. "We are entitled to withdraw our labour". He will now be regarded as inducing people to go on strike or to withdraw their labour.
This proposal would mean the complete emasculation of the shop steward 1645 movement as I know it. The Amendment has limited application to what I am saying but it is the only Amendment, as I see it, to subsection (1). One feels that one has to make the case that, if we agree to subsection (1) in its present form, we shall give the impression that we accept the Government's interpretation of the duties of a shop steward.
The hon. and learned Gentleman talked about an official of a trade union. I take it that the Solicitor-General means that a shop steward is an official of a trade union.
Therefore, we must, first, protest that the interpretation being placed by the Government on the powers and duties of shop stewards means that they are limiting powers which are much wider than they say.
Secondly, we must not fail to vote against the contention of Clause 85(1), that any responsible person within a trade union who induces his members to come out on strike is exceeding his duty. I do not accept that. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will not accept it either.
§ Mr. F. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I hope that the Solicitor-General will take the good advice given to him by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder). It was good and refreshing. I do not know how much the hon. and learned Gentleman knows about what happens in industry. The word "induce" is so wide that tens of thousands of people who have never committed any crime could, if this became part of the law, find themselves before the courts.
Management claims that it has the right to hire and fire. Often it does so without prior consultation with any responsible trade union official.
Problems arise on redundancy. Management, without consultation, may decide that 10, 20 or 30 workers shall
§ be dismissed. In consequence, the rest of the workers in that establishment may immediately decide to down tools and quit the job, because they feel that, in selecting the redundancies, the management has picked out the awkward people and they see it as victimisation. In other words, workers whom the management could not get rid of in normal circumstances without industrial trouble are declared redundant. The management makes it clear, by the list that is put up, that it is getting rid of the difficult and awkward boys. This causes revulsion and there is a dispute. It may be that the management is able to keep on a few key hands, but the vast majority of the work force will down tools.
§ What would be the position, under Clause 85(1), if those lads who downed tools decided to go outside and to put up placards warning carriers bringing in raw materials, whether it be steel or anything else, what has happened and thereby tried to induce those carriers not to deliver that material to the factory? If the full-time trade union official were not present, none of the men and women who felt deeply about the victimisation, which had been brought about by the redundancies, would be able to do anything to bring home either to the management or to those who would unwittingly sustain the management by maintaining deliveries the reason for the trouble. They would be denied that opportunity, that right. that facility.
§ I repeat, the best advice which the Solicitor-General has been given today has come from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood. If the Solicitor-General takes that advice he will not only save himself a lot of trouble but will save industry a lot of trouble in days to come.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 251, Noes 282.1651
|Division No. 161.]||AYES||[5.25 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Barnett, Joel||Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Beaney, Alan||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Brown, Hugh D (G'gow, Provan)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bidwell, Sydney||Buchan, Norman|
|Ashley, Jack||Bishop, E. S.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Ashton, Joe||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James|
|Atkinson, Norman||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Booth, Albert||Carmichael, Neil|
|Barnes, Michael||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hunter, Adam||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(EdgeHill)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jay, Rt. Hn, Douglas||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Coleman, Donald||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Pendry, Tom|
|Concannon, J. D.||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pentland, Norman|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||John, Brynmor||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Prescott, John|
|Cronin, John||Johnson, James (E'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Price, J. I. (Westhoughton)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Rankin, John|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llnelly)||Judd, Frank||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Richard, Ivor|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Kinnock, Neil||Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarven)|
|Deakins, Eric||Lamond, James||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Latham, Arthur||Roderick,Caerwyn E.(Br'e'n&R'dnor)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lawson, George||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dormand, J. D.||Leonard, Dick||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c't1e-u-Tyne)|
|Dully, A. E. P.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lipton, Marcus||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lomas, Kenneth||Sillars, James|
|Eadie, Alex||Loughlin, Charles||Silverman, Julius|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Small, William|
|Ellis, Tom||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|English, Michael||McBride, Neil||Spearing, Nigel|
|Evans, Fred||McCartney, Hugh||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, E.||McElhone, Frank||Stallard, A. W.|
|Fisher,Mrs. Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)||McGuire, Michael||Steel, David|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackie, John||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Foley, Maurice||Mackintosh, John P.||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Foot, Michael||Maclennan, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Ford, Ben||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Forrester, John||McNamara, J. Kevin||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Taverne, Dick|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mallaleiu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Marks, Kenneth||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Marquand, David||Tinn, James|
|Ginsburg, David||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Tomney, Frank|
|Golding, John||Mayhew, Christopher||Torney, Tom|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Meacher, Michael||Tuck, Raphael|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Urwin, T. W.|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mendelson, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mikardo, Ian||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Milian, Bruce||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Miller, Dr. M.S.||alker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Wallace, George|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Molloy, William||Watkins, David|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weitzman, David|
|Hardy, Peter||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Harper, Joseph||Moyle, Roland||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Murray, Ronald King||Whitlock, William|
|Hattersley, Roy||Ogden, Eric||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||O'Halloran, Michael||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, W. T. (Warrington).|
|Hilton, W. S.||Oram, Bert||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Horam, John||Orbach, Maurice||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orme, Stanley||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Palmer, Arthur||Mr. John Pardoe and|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Mr. Russell Johnston.|
|Adley, Robert||Atkins, Humphrey||Batsford, Brian|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Awdry, Daniel||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Bell, Ronald|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)|
|Astor, John||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Benyon, W.|
|Biffen, John||Gurden, Harold||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Blakey, Peter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mudd, David|
|Body, Richard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Murton, Oscar|
|Boscawen, Robert||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Neave, Airey|
|Bowden, Andrew||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Haselhurst, Alan||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Braine, Bernard||Hastings, Stephen||Normanton, Tom|
|Bray, Ronald||Hayhoe, Barney||Nott, John|
|Brewis, John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Onslow, Cranley|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hicks, Robert||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Higgins, Terence L.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hiley, Joseph||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Bruce-Gardyno, J.||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Bryan, Paul||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Holland, Philip||Peel, John|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Holt, Miss Mary||Percival, Ian|
|Burden, F. A.||Hordern, Peter||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hornby, Richard||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Channon, Paul||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hunt, John||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Chichester-Clarke, R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Clark William (Surrey, E.)||James, David||Raison, Timothy|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Clegg, Walter||Jessel, Toby||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Cockeram, Eric||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Redmond, Robert|
|Cooke, Robert||Jopling, Michael||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Coombs, Derek||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cordle, John||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kershaw, Anthony||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Costain, A. P.||Kilfedder, James||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Critchley, Julian||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Crouch, David||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kinsey, J.R.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Curran, Charles||Kirk, Peter||Rost, Peter|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kitson, Timothy||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Knox, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Lambton, Antony||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Dean, Paul||Lane, David||Sharples, Richard|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Dixon, Piers||Le Merchant, Spencer||Simeons, Charles|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Lloyd,Rt. Hn.Geo Rrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Longden, Gilbert||Soref, Harold|
|Eden, Sir John||Loveridge, John||Speed, Keith|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Spence, John|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||MacArthur, Ian||Sproat, Iain|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||McCrindle, R. A.||Stainton, Keith|
|Emery, Peter||McLaren, Martin||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maclean, Fitzroy||Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)|
|Farr, John||McMaster, Stanley||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Fell, Anthony||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||McNair Wilson, Michael||Stokes, John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||McNair-Wilson,Patrick(New Forest)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maddan, Martin||Sutcliffe, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Madel, David||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maginnis, John E.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Foster, Sir John||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Fowler, Norman||Marten, Neil||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Fox, Marcus||Mather, Carol||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Fry, Peter||Maude, Angus||Tebbit, Norman|
|Galbraith, Hn. T.||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Temple, John M.|
|Gardner, Edward||Mawby, Ray||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thompson, Sir Richard (Craydon, S.)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Tilney, John|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshlre,W)||Trew, Peter|
|Gorst, John||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Gower, Raymond||Moate, Roger||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Molyneaux, James||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Gray, Hamish||Money, Ernie||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Green, Alan||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Waddington, David|
|Grylls, Michael||Montgomery, Fergus||Welder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Gummer, Selwyn||More, Jasper||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Wall, Patrick||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||Worsley, Marcus|
|Walters, Dennis||Wiggin, Jerry||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N.R.|
|Ward, Dame Irene||Wilkinson, John|
|Warren, Kenneth||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher||Mr. Paul Hawkins and|
|Wells, John (Maidstone)||Woodnutt, Mark||Mr. Victor Goodhew.|
|White, Roger (Gravesend)|
§ Mr. Walter Johnson (Derby, South)
I beg to move Amendment No. 797, in page 61, line 29, leave out from "organisation" to end of line 30 and insert:'of workers; any reference to an industrial dispute shall include a dispute between workers and workers and a dispute concerning the recognition or non-recognition of a trade union.'I believe that the Government would be wise to accept the Amendment, which would leave the difficult problems of demarcation disputes, recognition and inter-union disputes in the hands of the T.U.C. With due respect to the Government and the Industrial Court, if it is ever set up, or to any body set up by the present Government, the T.U.C. has far more experience in dealing with this problem than any such body is ever likely to have.
The Solicitor-General will know of the Bridlington Agreement, which, in spite of its imperfections, has stood the test of time in dealing with many of the industrial disputes arising out of recognition and inter-union disputes. Under this Clause, the Bridlington principles and procedures are to be thrown to one side. They were introduced for the benefit of both sides of industry, employers as well as unions.
In the last 30 years, the T.U.C. has dealt successfully with more than 1,000 inter-union disputes under the Bridlington Agreement. The understanding which existed among the unions has itself presented an indiscrimate number of these disputes from arising, particularly in factory, shop or office. It has halted the spread of break-away unions and has cut down the willy-nilly transfer of members from one union to another.
The Government's proposals are intended to strengthen the authority of the unions and bring about orderly industrial relations. They will do nothing of the sort, and I will demonstrate why.
Hon. Members will be aware of the number of demarcation disputes that have arisen in recent years. Many of these would have been impossible to 1652 solve without the intervention of the T.U.C. As I explained, the Bridlington Agreement has been responsible for solving a large number of them.
Hon. Members will know the general terms. Where unions are in dispute, they have the opportunity of eventually coming before the T.U.C. Disputes Committee and, be they large or small unions, they can present the facts clearly and fairly about the dispute in question. At the end of the day the Disputes Committee reaches a decision, but that need not be the end of the story. If a union feels that the Disputes Committees has made a wrong decision, it can appeal to the T.U.C. itself and get the matter resolved there. In this way small unions are protected in exactly the same way as are large unions.
It is difficult enough for the T.U.C., with the good will of the trade unions and with great experience of dealing with these problems, to get these disputes resolved. These include inter-union problems, demarcation difficulties and matters affecting the recognition of trade unions. There is no doubt that this background of experience places the T.U.C. in an excellent position to deal with these disputes which arise in our industrial relations.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman is putting forward the Amendment on the basis that it refers to the T.U.C. Considering the wording of Clause 57, which defines these terms—in that the Amendment refers to an organisation of workers—would not the T.U.C. be a federation of workers' organisations within subsection (2), and does that not present a difficulty in connection with the Amendment? Whatever virtues the hon. Gentleman's proposal may have in connection with the T.U.C., owing to the definition of "organisation of workers" the Amendment would extend to all sorts of ad hoc, unregistered and other bodies which could purport to come within Clause 57(1).
§ Mr. Johnson
The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a valuable 1653 point and the reason for our raising this matter is that we believe that further disputes will arise from this legislation. We have been able to demonstrate that instead of preventing strikes, this legislation will result in more strikes occurring.
Great bitterness will arise and whereas at present unions by and large accept the advice of the T.U.C. Disputes Committee, if the Government remove these powers from the T.U.C. there will be more strikes. At present the T.U.C. is able to intervene when difficulties occur and so prevent those difficulties turning into strikes.
If the Government force the Clause through unamended, trade unions will regard this as a gross interference with free trade union practice, which has been built up over the years and which helps the nation because it solves disputes in the way I have described. The Government will be asking for trouble if they force this through. It would be to their advantage—though, more important, to the advantage of the nation—to accept the Amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Walter Johnson) raised two specific points, one of a narrow and one of a general character.
The more general point which the hon. Gentleman raised was that the Clause, if left unamended, would impede or obstruct the exercise by the T.U.C. of its conciliatory powers between unions and the resolution of recognition arguments or demarcation disputes. It is not the intention or desire of the Government to achieve that result and I suggest that the Clause will in no sense threaten or undermine the work that the T.U.C. has done and, one hopes, will keep on doing.
There is nothing here to reduce the effectiveness of any agreement that may be made—either the Bridlington agreement or that which comes after it—by the T.U.C. or between different unions in regard to the resolution of arguments between them. I cannot see how this threatens to have that effect.
Perhaps it creates an alternative legal machinery for the resolution of disputes of this kind. It is not the Clause so much that does that but, more particularly, the Clauses which we have already debated; namely, Clause 42 onwards which deal with recognition and which enable a union 1654 seeking recognition to have that matter determined and which enable an employer confronted with competing recognition schemes to have those schemes referred, through the court, to the C.I.R.
In other words, the Clause as drafted would set up alternative machinery and would in no way diminish the power or rôle of the T.U.C. to do exactly what it has always tried to do. The Government argue that the provision of alternative legal machinery may in itself encourage unions, if the hon. Gentleman is right, to make use of the existing extra legal machinery. If that happens, well and good. Nevertheless, there is nothing here to stop it from happening.
The Amendment would extend the definition of "organisation of workers" to cover an organisation of workers whether or not it was registered. The Committee may wish to debate that point on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. The concept of the Clause is that the right to induce a breach of contract without due notice being given should be confined to registered organisations. The Amendment challenges that and seeks to give that right to other organisations, registered or unregistered. This is a principle which I suggest it would be more appropriate to discuss on that Question.
§ Mr. Heffer
The importance of this Amendment and the Clause to which it relates comes into perspective when one takes into account that the General Council is recommending to the 'Trades Union Congress that unions should not register.
§ The Solicitor-General
That is a matter which can be debated more widely in other contexts. In the context of this Clause, we are saying that only a registered organisation should retain the right, either itself or though its officials, to induce breaches of contracts of employment. That is a central provision of the Bill to which we attach importance, which we can debate on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
The other point, which the hon. Member for Derby, South did not develop in detail but which arises on the Amendment, is the suggestion that the definition of an industrial dispute shall includea dispute between workers and workers and a dispute concerning … recognition or non-recognition.1655 The inclusion of those words in the Clause might have rather curious effects, and I imagine that hon. Members opposite would say that this point relates to the definition of industrial dispute in Clause 148. In Clause 148, "industrial dispute" is defined as including,(c) allocation of work as between workers or groups of workers;(d) a procedure agreement, or any matter to which in accordance with this section a procedure agreement can relate;One turns then to the definition of "procedure agreement", which relates, among other things, to,machinery for consultation with regard to, or for the settlement by negotiation or arbitration of, terms and conditions of employment",and in paragraphs (c) and (d) there are included also "negotiating rights" andfacilities for officials of trade unions or other organisations of workers".Thus, if a union claims negotiating rights, and it claims them from an employer, it is in dispute with the employer within the terms of paragraph (c) of the definition of "procedure agreement", and it would be within the definition of "industrial dispute" as now drawn. Similarly, if there were a demarcation dispute, as opposed to a competing recognition dispute, as to the allocation of work between workers or groups of workers that also would be within the terms of paragraph (c) of the definition of "industrial dispute".
I hope that the Committee will feel that the addition of the words proposed to make plain that a dispute concerning recognition is within the definition of "industrial dispute" is not necessary, and that any dispute covered by the matters to which we have just referred would be an industrial dispute for the purposes of Clause 85 and elsewhere in the Bill.
In the view of many commentators, the inclusion of the words "workers and workers" in the 1906 Act has created as much doubt as it has resolved doubt. I think that Donovan said that it was uncertain whether the words "between workers and workers" actually applied to a recognition dispute. Rather than repeat those somewhat misleading words, we have included the much wider definition of industrial dispute in the two 1656 places to which I have drawn attention in Clause 148.
Therefore, for the narrowly technical reason in respect of the definition of "industrial dispute", because the confining of the right to induce breaches of contract of employment to registered organisations is a central part of the policy of the Bill, and because nothing in the Clause either does obstruct or will obstruct the rôle of the T.U.C. in the resolution of demarcation or recognition disputes, I argue that the Amendment is not called for.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
We shall be discussing the wider implications of the Clause later. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Walter Johnson) has given a useful exposition of how the trade union movement itself deals with some of these problems. We have proposed the Amendment because we recognise certain specific legal problems posed not merely by the Clause but by the 1906 Act as interpreted in a number of legal decisions, particularly in recent years.
The difficulty in debating Amendment No. 797 in isolation is that Amendment No. 796 was not selected—in page 61, line 19, leave out subsection (1) and insert:(1) An act done by a person or organisation of workers in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable on the ground only that it induces some other person to break a contract or that it is an interference with the trade, business or employment of some other person, or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital or his labour as he wills.That Amendment is directly related to this definition subsection, and it is only with an understanding of the problems caused by the 1906 Act that one can understand the points now being put.
There may be a strike for trade union recognition. A trade union on the register may well have organised a substantial proportion of the workers at a particular establishment yet it may be denied the protection of the 1906 Act, although it would seem that, under the new definition of industrial dispute, it may well be protected as regards unfair industrial practice.
But even with the new concept proposed by the Solicitor-General regarding the bargaining unit, there seems to be a 1657 failure to meet a number of legal problems. There is not only the question of the strike for recognition. One has to consider also the embryonic union, the non-registered union, the de-registered union, the union which is fighting for recognition but which is not protected because it is not yet on the register. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has reminded us that many large trade unions will not register and, therefore, will not be protected under the Clause.
Refusal of recognition must inevitably lead to an industrial dispute because at that stage the machinery for negotiation on demands connected with the employment or non-employment—if I may use terms from the 1906 Act—or the terms of employment and conditions of labour of any person has not been set up. The situation—I am sure that this was not the intention in the 1906 Act—is that a strike for trade union recognition may well not come within the protection of the Act, and certainly not within Section 5.
We have sought here modestly to return to the status quo and to implement at least one part of paragraph 1100 of Donovan in relation to commercial contracts. The difficulty arises because, although Lord Denning in the case of Beetham v. Trinidad Cement Co. in 1961 accepted that a recognition dispute would fall within the ambit of Section 5 of the 1906 Act, and although the Solicitor-General has assured us—we have to accept his assurance for the time being—that this is his intention as regards Clause 85, a recent pronouncement by Lord Reid in the case of Stratford v. Lindley casts considerable doubt on the protection offered by the 1906 Act. That dictum restricted the definition of trade dispute to mean a case arising from an individual complaint about the terms of the employee's service. So the question of the recognition of a union was excluded.
Looked at in isolation, this may appear not relevant to Clause 85, but taken together with Amendment No. 796, which was not selected, it has a profound significance for the protection of trade unions.
Again, we have the rather strange concept of "furthering the anger felt" rather than "furthering a trade dispute" which Lord Denning introduced in the Torquay 1658 Hotels case. I hope that the Solicitor-General will look into this. It casts doubt upon the protection offered to registered trade unions within the ambit of the 1906 Act. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has at least clarified his intention with regard to industrial disputes in the Clause, will equally clarify his attitude to the position of the 1906 Act.
§ [Mr. E. L. MALLALIEU in the Chair]
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
The effective provisions of Section 3 of that Act now appear in Clause 118(1) of the Bill, conferring total immunity over the area recommended by Donovan from actions in the ordinary courts in respect of a trade or industrial dispute. Our intention is to confer that immunity as widely as it exists now, but defining "industrial dispute" so as to make it plainer than the phrase "trade dispute" in the 1906 Act. If the hon. Gentleman follows "industrial dispute" in the subsection through to the definition Clause and the definition of "procedure agreement" and "negotiating rights", he will see that we intended to make it plain that all litigation about this kind of situation, whether the Beetham case or the Stratford v. Lindley case, is excluded from the ordinary courts and is subject to the new rules laid down in this provision. That is the intention, and I think that we have achieved it.
§ Mr. Rose
I am not sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman has achieved that intention. I should like from him an undertaking that on Report he will at least make clear the intention with regard to the definition of industrial dispute and that it will apply also to a trade dispute within the meaning of the 1906 Act. Unless he does, we are faced with a curious anomaly where, for the purposes of "unfair industrial practice" he accepts a certain degree of protection, which disintegrates when we go to the subsequent Clauses. In relation to the 1906 Act and the later Clauses we have an entirely different problem, because we do not know—and the law is in a state of flux on this—whether a recognition dispute is included.
I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to look again at this problem and perhaps to introduce an Amendment on Report which will make it certain with regard 1659 to a tort that the protection for inducement under the 1906 Act will extend as widely as he has told us it will extend in regard to recognition disputes under his new concept of industrial dispute and unfair trade practice.
§ The Solicitor-General
The 1906 Act, and in particular Section 3, disappears under the Bill. The equivalent protection to that contained by Section 3 of the 1906 Act in relation to trade disputes is conferred in Clause 118(1) in relation to industrial disputes. So the question of what is or is not the meaning of "trade dispute" no longer arises. A trade union brought before the ordinary court will no longer say, "We are acting in furtherance or contemplation of a trade dispute". It will say, "We are acting in furtherance or contemplation of an industrial dispute under Section 118", which is more widely defined, advisedly, than in the 1906 Act. The hon. Gentleman will find that that is how the matter is dealt with.
§ Mr. Rose
I am very grateful to the Solicitor-General. I have just looked at Clause 118, and I think he will agree that it is based very largely upon the wording of the 1906 Act. I hope that he will look at it to make it entirely clear that a recognition dispute will now be covered, and that there will be no uncertainty about that.
The second problem posed by what I can only describe as the legal sleight of hand of Her Majesty's Solicitor-Juggler is that the definition of "industrial dispute" differs from the definition of "trade dispute" so as to eliminate in this sense the protection given in cases in which both sides of the dispute may be employees. Happily, inter-union disputes, which were once a source of anxiety, have been diminishing recently and are now a tiny proportion of disputes within industry. Reference has been made to some of the actions of the T.U.C., and more amalgamations are taking place within the trade union movement. Therefore, they would be only a minor irritant in normal circumstances, but the minor irritant derives from the fact that the inter-union dispute may arise from bad communications by management or faulty decisions by management.
The greater irritant derives from the astonishing and disruptive provisions on 1660 agency shops and bargaining units, which are calculated to cause inter-union disputes—not demarcation disputes, but disputes over representation which could well lead to a fragmentation of the trade union movement. In that context, to do what Donovan never suggested—limit the definition so as to do away with disputes between one section of workers and another—seems to me to be a major irritant for the trade union movement in the future. There is no legitimacy here derived from Donovan.
Third, the Amendment includes in the protection "organisations of workers". I know that this is a matter that will be discussed in some detail on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. By excluding non-registered trade unions, the hon. and learned Gentleman effectively denies the right to strike, certainly the right to induce a breach of contract, to non-unionists. We have heard many hon. Members opposite protest on behalf of non-unionists earlier. Non-unionists, non-registered trade unions, and de-registered trade unions are denied the right to strike, and so-called unofficial strikes, even if subsequently recognised, will be left in the position in which those involved, certainly those inducing a breach of contract, will be liable under the Clause.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke) rose——
§ Mr. Rose
I am trying to develop a somewhat complex argument, so I will not give way at present.
There is surely no juridical difference between official and unofficial strikes. What the hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to do here, when there is a breach of contract in both cases, is to try to draw an artificial distinction between an official and an unofficial strike. Denial of the right to strike to non-unionists and organisations of workers is contrary to Clause 6 of the European Social Charter.
The Solicitor-General may claim that legitimacy is derived from Donovan, because of the split vote to which he referred earlier. But Donovan proposed a completely different framework for registration, not a system of State-licensed unions, and his proposals were also in the framework of an appeal not to the N.I.R.C. but to a panel which would be composed of two trade unionists and one 1661 independent member. So the Bill has a very different situation with regard to registration from that put forward by Donovan. But I leave those arguments until we debate the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
By accepting the Amendment, or at least giving an undertaking on the two latter points, the Solicitor-General would go some way not only towards clarifying what he feels the law is intended to be but towards repairing some of the damage that will be done by the Clause. A little later we shall debate in full what goes to the root of the matter. We are now debating certain Amendments, but the fundamental premise of the Clause goes to the root of the whole social consensus that was arrived at in 1906 after the Taff Vale decision. On the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, we shall have the opportunity to debate far more fully the very wide and serious inter-related ramifications of subsection (1), which we have been denied the opportunity to debate in the context of this Amendment. We have been denied the opportunity of relating the Amendment on inducement to the attempt to restore the status quo of the 1906 Act. The Solicitor-General is taking a remarkable step if he intends to deny the right to strike to a very large section of workers. This Amendment would at least alleviate his proposals to some extent.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument carefully. He suggests that an unregistered trade union has no right to call a strike. Will he clarify his interpretation of the Clause and say what he believes will be the position of an unregistered trade union calling a strike when it has given due notice under the procedure agreement or the terms of the contract?
§ Mr. Rose
We are dealing with inducement. We are in a position in which an unregistered trade union—in other words, an organisation of workers for the purpose of the Clause—is not afforded the same protection as that accorded to the official of a registered trade union under Clause 90(5) and Clause 85.
The hon. Gentleman has not entirely followed my argument. The defence provided in Clause 85(1) is not provided for an unregistered trade union because the definition of "trade union" does not 1662 include an organisation of workers; nor will it take in a situation where workers are not members of a trade union. I think that the hon. Gentleman should look again at Clause 85.
§ Mr. Mitchell rose——
§ Mr. Rose
No. I must not take up any further time. We shall be debating the principle later, when no doubt the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to deal with what is a fundamental principle, which is the denial to an unregistered union of the same privileges which apply to registered trade unions within a context of registration which differs in many ways from that put forward by the Donovan Commission.
I ask the Solicitor-General to look at these three legal problems. In the light of what has been said from these benches about the work of the trade union movement, the hon. and learned Gentleman ought at least to undertake to come back on Report and undo some of the damage which may be done by this objectionable Clause.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I want to return to this point because it appears, I am sure unintentionally, that the hon. Gentleman has misled the Committee. When I raised the matter with him just now, the hon. Gentleman skipped the point. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will clarify it for the Committee.
No one disputes that there is a difference betwen the privilege given to a registered trade union and that given to an unregistered union or collection of persons acting together. But to suggest that an unregistered union has no rights seems to be completely at variance with the facts. I accept that there is a difference of privilege. But to say in a sweeping way that an unregistered trade union has no right to call a strike seems to be a complete distortion of the facts, especially when one bears in mind that countless numbers of the hon. Gentleman's supporters in the country will repeat what he has said.
It is somewhat ironic that the hon. Gentleman should make this statement on the same day as the T.U.C. has apparently advised its member unions not to seek registration. There seems to be an absolute irony in the situation in which the hon. Gentleman finds himself. He is out on a limb. I hope that my 1663 hon. and learned Friend will assure the Committee that my interpretation is correct and that the hon. Gentleman is wrong.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 245, Noes 278.1667
|Division No.162.]||AYES||[6.12 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Freeson, Reginald||Marks, Kenneth|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Marquand, David|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Garrett, W. E.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Ashley, Jack||Ginsburg, David||Meacher, Michael|
|Ashton, Joe||Golding, John||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Atkinson, Norman||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mendelson, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Gourlay, Harry||Mikardo, Ian|
|Barnes, Michael||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Millan, Bruce|
|Barnett, Joel||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Molloy, William|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hardy, Peter||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Moyle, Roland|
|Booth, Albert||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hattersley, Roy||Murray, Ronald King|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Ogden, Eric|
|Bradley, Tom||Heffer, Eric||S. O'Halloran, Michael|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Hilton, W. S.||O'Malley, Brian|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Horam, John||Oram, Bert|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orbach, Maurice|
|Buchan, Norman||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Orme, Stanley|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Huckfield, Leslie||Oswald, Thomas|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Hunter, Adam||Pardoe, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthllr(Edge Hill)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pendry, Tom|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pentland, Norman|
|Concannon, J. D.||John, Brynmor||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cronin, John||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Probert, Arthur|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Rankin, John|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Cwynoro (Carmarthen)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Judd, Frank||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Richard, Ivor|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Kinnock, Neil||Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)|
|Deakins, Eric||Lamond, James||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Latham, Arthur||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lawson, George||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dormand, J. D.||Leonard, Dick||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lipton, Marcus||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lomas, Kenneth||Sillars, James|
|Eadie, Alex||Loughlin, Charles||Silverman, Julius|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Small, William|
|Ellis, Tom||McBride, Neil||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|English, Michael||McCartney, Hugh||Spearing, Nigel|
|Evans, Fred||McElhone, Frank||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, E.||McGuire, Michael||Stallard, A. W.|
|Fisher,Mrs.Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mackie, John||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackintosh, John P.||Strang, Gavin|
|Foley, Maurine||Maclennan, Robert||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Foot, Michael||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Ford, Ben||MacPherson, Malcolm||Taveme, Dick|
|Forrester, John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield,E.)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Tinn, James||Wallace, George||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Tomney, Frank||Watkins, David||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Torney, Tom||Weitzman, David||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Tuck, Raphael||Wellbeloved, James||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Urwin, T. W.||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Varley, Eric C.||Whitehead, Phillip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wainwright, Edwin||Whitlock, William||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Adley, Robert||Eyre, Reginald||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Farr, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fell, Anthony||Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Astor, John||Fidler, Michael||Longden, Gilbert|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Finsherg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Loveridge, John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Fookes, Miss Janet||MacArthur, Ian|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Foster, Sir John||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fowler, Norman||McLaren, Martin|
|Batsford, Brian||Fox, Marcus||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Fry, Peter||McMaster, Stanley|
|Bell, Ronald||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Gardner, Edward||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Benyon, W.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)|
|Biffen, John||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife E.)||Maddan, Martin|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Madel, David|
|Blaker, Peter||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maginnis, John E.|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Goodhart, Philip||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Body, Richard||Goodhew, Victor||Marten, Neil|
|Boscawen, Robert||Gorst, John||Mather, Carol|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Gower, Raymond||Maude, Angus|
|Bowden, Andrew||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Gray, Hamish||Mawby, Ray|
|Braine, Bernard||Green, Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Bray, Ronald||Grylls, Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Brewis, John||Gummer, Selwyn||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gurden, Harold||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Moate, Roger|
|Bryan, Paul||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Molyneaux, James|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Money, Ernie|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Burden, F. A.||Haselhurst, Alan||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hastings, Stephen||More, Jasper|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hayhoe, Barney||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hicks, Robert||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Channon, Paul||Higgins, Terence L.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hiley, Joseph||Mudd, David|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Murton, Oscar|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Holland, Philip||Neave, Airey|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Holt, Miss Mary||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Clegg, Walter||Hordern, Peter||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hornby, Richard||Normanton, Tom|
|Cooke, Robert||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Nott, John|
|Coombs, Derek||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Cooper, A. E.||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hunt, John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Costain, A. P.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Critchley, Julian||Iremonger, T. L.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Crouch, David||James, David||Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jessel, Toby||Peel, John|
|Curran, Charles||Johnson Smith, C. (E. Grinstead)||Percival, Ian|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jopling, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Pink, R. Bonner|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Dean, Paul||Kershaw, Anthony||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kilfedder, James||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Dixon, Piers||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Raison, Timothy|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kinsey, J. R.||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kirk, Peter||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Kitson, Timothy||Redmond, Robert|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Eden, Sir John||Knox, David||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lambton, Antony||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lane, David||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Waddington, David|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Rost, Peter||Stokes, John||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Russell, Sir Ronald||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom||Wall, Patrick|
|St. John-Stevas, Norman||Sutcliffe, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Tapsell, Peter||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Scott, Nicholas||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Sharples, Richard||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Shaw, Michael (Sc'h'gh & Whitby)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Shelton, William (Clapham)||Tebbit, Norman||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Simeons, Charles||Temple, John M.||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Wilkinson, John|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Soref, Harold||Tilney, John||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Speed, Keith||Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Worsley, Marcus|
|Spence, John||Trew, Peter||Wylie, Rt. Hn, N. R.|
|Sproat, Iain||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Stainton, Keith||Turton, Rt. kin. R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard||Mr. Paul Hankins and|
|Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)||Vickers, Dame Joan||Mr. Tim Fortescue.|
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield
I beg to move Amendment No. 753, in page 61, line 30, at end add:(3) No action shall lie under this section for any unfair industrial practice contained in any newspaper, periodical, book, television, sound broadcast, public meeting (which shall include any meeting to which access is limited by any membership requirement) or any private conversation.My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) said that the main effect of Clause 85 was upon the unofficial inducement to a breach of contract at the place of work. I do not depart from his submission that the main intention of the Clause is to do something about the alleged problem of unofficial strikes. But I submit that the real intention goes much further than that. That is why the purpose of my Amendment is to deal with so-called inducements to breaches of contract onside the place of work.
I refer to the main purpose of Clause 85 because it is one of the most monstrous Clauses in the Bill, particularly as the Solicitor-General has now further elaborated it, because, by saying that a trade union official had to be acting especially within the scope of his authority, he narrowed the Clause even more definitely. It is because the Solicitor-General has made the meaning and relevance of the Clause to legalised trade practices even narrower that my Amendment becomes even more necessary.
The main purpose of the Clause is to damp down so-called sympathy strikes and go-slows and activities which may be construed to be non-union, or stemming from non-registered union activities. Various references have been made to 1668 some of the activities ancillary to industrial disputes. My concern is not just about industrial practices or industrial disputes inside a factory but about some of the practices which may occur outside.
I give a few examples. In the recent strike of the National Union of Mineworkers it was fairly common practice, at least in the Midlands, for representatives, not necessarily official union representatives, to go to other collieries urging men who had not yet come out on strike to join the strike, which at that stage was official. Presumably, under this Clause those union men, not necessarily union representatives acting especially within the scope of trade union authority, would be guilty of inducing a breach of contract. They would have acted outside the gates of the colliery and in a public way. That is one reason why an Amendment such as this is necessary.
A couple of Saturdays ago, the Union of Post Office Workers went on a march through Nuneaton. I was asked to speak at its meeting but, because of other important commitments, I could not do so. Had I gone along I would have found myself hard pressed not to support the union's case, and I would have done so. I wonder whether I would have been guilty under Clause 85 of inducing a breach of contract. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone said that the main emphasis of the Clause was the work place, I put much weight on the evidence offered this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) about public meetings of this sort.
It goes even further. If we are to start referring to newspaper articles, public meetings, conversations and even 1669 closed private meetings—and all are definitely and specifically affected by the Clause—we can also think of the peripherals—phone tapping, bugging meetings and so on. I foresee all this happening with the Clause as it stands, and that is why the Amendment becomes doubly necessary.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I am grateful for that intervention. That was precisely the sort of situation which was beginning to develop in one of our local collieries. It is this whole area of activity which lends weight to my Amendment. The Solicitor-General has not cleared up these matters this afternoon. I suppose it could be construed that some of the articles appearing in newspapers such as the Morning Star and the Guardian could have an effect. I suppose we could have an unofficial strike leader on television or on radio. If what he said resulted in the men coming out on unofficial strike presumably he would be affected by this.
There could be all kinds of other situations involving people not directly concerned with the unions, such as Members of Parliament, who might come along to public places and say the sort of things which have been referred to. So many things which could happen that unless the Solicitor-General can offer a satisfactory explanation I can only reach the conclusion that Clause 85 represents a monstrous curtailment of freedom of speech.
One of the things I have always valued in this country is that one can stand up and say what one likes without fear of being too publicly penalised, but it appears that if someone says something which can be construed as an inducement to break a contract the whole legal machine will start to work.
It goes further than that, because we are talking not only about strikes which could be unofficial but about breaches of contract which could be occasioned in some other way. There are all kinds of peripheral activities which could be influenced. I have some severe reservations about this Clause and I hope that 1670 the Solicitor-General can enlighten the Committee in a clearer fashion than he did about Rolls-Royce last week. I hope that he can provide some greater enlightenment than he has on other Clauses today. This Clause troubles many of us. Not only does it refer to the rather narrowly defined activities at the place of work, but it refers to other peripheral activities. I would be grateful for some assurance from the Solicitor-General. If he cannot give that I will press my Amendment.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) has made out a good case for the Clause remaining as it is. The Clause relates only to those who seek to induce people to break contracts. I would have thought that once a contract had been accepted as generally binding it was reasonable to suppose that those in positions of leadership at whatever level should not induce others to break that contract.
In so far as the hon. Member's Amendment relates to the Press, television and radio, I believe that there would be a good deal of advantage to the trade unions to the cause of peace and to the country as a whole if we had fewer appearances on television by some leaders of unions who appear to be prepared to argue their case on television rather than on the shop floor. The situation created in recent years through this new medium of television has been such that those responsible for bringing people to the screen are only too anxious to secure the most extreme elements. Many of the rank and file trade unionists are moderates and if this Clause will help in taking away those extreme elements from the television screen then it will have done a good job.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman now arguing that, irrespective of a point of view, there should be some censorship of the public media, be it radio, television or newspapers?
§ Mr. Lewis
That is a fair point. I am not suggesting that anyone who is asked to appear on television to speak about industrial relations should be prevented from doing so. I say that they ought not to be allowed to go on television and ask people to break their 1671 contracts. Extreme elements should not be encouraged to go on television and urge people to do this. These contracts have been signed on behalf of members of trade unions and they are binding on employers and trade unions alike.
Neither is it right that employers should go on television with the same end on view. It applies both ways. If there were more restraint, in particular with television, then Press and radio would gain an advantage. If this was voluntarily accepted there would be an advantage. In so far as this Clause will stop people going on television urging others to break contracts, it is a valuable Clause.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) has put forward the most astonishing argument. His premises seemed to me to be entirely wrong. It is simply not true that either B.B.C. or I.T.V. show only or mainly extremists who want to promote strikes. Whenever there is an industrial dispute the authorities ask spokesmen from both sides to put forward their point of view. In the case of I.T.V. there is a statutory obligation to preserve a balance. It would be very boring if both sides were not put, and almost invariably they are. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's premise falls to the ground.
The hon. Member's conclusion that the Clause and Bill should be used as an indirect method of censoring television is a most extraordinary proposal. Suscessive Postmasters-General before the change in the arrangements of the Post Office and successive Governments of both major parties have steadfastly refused to interfere in the programme planning or the programmes on television or radio.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
I do not suggest that special use should be made of the Clause for censorship. All that I said—I repeat it, and I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will accept it—was that if by this Clause someone on the shop floor, outside the gate or anywhere else in the works, is not permitted to persuade others to break their contracts, it must follow that people should not be allowed to do it on television. Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that people should be allowed to do on television 1672 what they are not allowed to do in a public place in or out of a works.
§ Mr. Driberg
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman means what he thinks he means, but he has not thought out thoroughly the consequences of what he has said. He says that it would be a good thing if the Government rejected the Amendment and, therefore, that the Clause could have the effect ultimately of preventing the appearance on television of certain people who might be in favour of an unofficial strike. That would be using the Bill, for the future, to censor television. It is clear that that is the only consequence of what the hon. Gentleman has said, whether he has thought it out thoroughly or not.
That forms merely one more reason why I support the Amendment. I hope if there is time when we debate the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, to show why the whole Clause is thoroughly harmful and dangerous.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) carries the argument much too far when he suggests that what my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) said amounted to a plea for censorship of the Press simply because he argued that it was not right that, according to the Bill, what could not be said in the factory could be said in a newspaper. When the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends talk about the threat to the Press or television, they wholly misunderstand that what the hon. Member, as he should well know, does as a writer or commentator on television is done in the full knowledge of the law on the subject under discussion. Taking the law into account on the subject which one may be discussing is nothing to do with the censorship of that particular medium. It is simply a question of taking account of the law as it exists.
We are considering a Clause relating to agreements which, having been entered into by both sides in an industrial matter, subsequently are taken to stand. It is a total nonsense to suggest that making those who write in the Press or commentate on television no more and no less subject to the rules governing those in the factory on the management or union side adds up to censorship of the Press.
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. Gentleman is evading the point. The Press and television are already severely restricted by the laws of libel and they have to be careful about them. But it is argued by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) and by the hon. Gentleman that it will be a good thing if, as a result of this Bill, extra legal restrictions are put on television and the Press. A Tory newspaper which thinks that strikers have a fair case will not be allowed to run an editorial to that effect.
§ Mr. Hornby
Nothing is being added by the Clause. It merely provides that no special protection shall be given over and above that which exists in the factory between the disputants or signatories to an agreement.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eadie
It is becoming clear that the advice given by an hon. Member opposite that the Clause should be scrapped is proving to be very sound. It is most remarkable about every debate on the Amendments that the Front Bench continually loses the argument.
Nobody in his wildest dreams would have thought that we would hear from hon. Members opposite that it would be a good thing if the freedoms for which we have fought for many years were suppressed or censored. People who read the report of this debate will read with amazement that we are discussing the question not only of industrial relations but of censorship, whether it be of the television or the Press.
I am becoming concerned about the lack of knowledge among members of the Government Front Bench. I have spent 30 years of my life in the mining industry. Some of the legal arguments advanced from the benches opposite have been very faulty. It has been said that shop stewards in the mining industry would be able to have a say in a dispute or intended dispute. I ask the hon. Members opposite to read the Thinacre or Knockshinnock ruling. Strict restrictions were put on shop stewards in my trade union working underground. They had locus above ground but not underground. I wish that the Government's legal representative would do his legal work properly before presenting his arguments to the Committee.
1674 It is the very breath of the mining community that there should be argument and discussion. I am not conceited or arrogant, but I believe that that community has sent to the House of Commons people who have enhanced the prestige of democratic and parliamentary government in this country. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite realise that most trade unions have journals and readers' columns in which people can "let off steam". They may say that the union is not being militant enough or even that it is being negligent. But, according to the arguments of hon. Members opposite, if a miner writes "The Scottish Miner" or "The Miner" and says, "We should have industrial action tomorrow and more militancy", he is inducing and aiding and abetting. The hon. Gentleman opposite who said that the Clause should be scrapped put his finger on the point.
It was common before I was born for one-day schools and conferences to take place in the mining industry. A group discussion is to take place in my constituency tonight. Some of the things said will be very embarrasing to right hon. and hon. Members opposite. But this is healthy discussion. My old schoolmaster used to say that it was healthy for people to go to football matches on Saturdays and do a bit of shouting. When one lets off steam it makes it healthier for the rest o[...] the week. In an industry where admittedly they work and play hard, it is a good idea that people should let off steam. They can then think it out rationally. I am astonished at the arguments put forward that such conduct should be censored, that it should be subjected to some form of legality. We must have argument and debate in a democratic society.
I hope that we shall be allowed to continue to have conferences and one-day schools and that there will be question and discussion periods. It is the very essence of democracy. It is good for trade union leaders. Before I came to the House of Commons I was a full-time trade union officer. There was nothing more stimulating than to address a one-day conference on some aspect of union policy or the kind of strategy that the union should carry out in future. A 1675 union is formed to look after and assist its members.
At the one-day schools one is told that one is not doing enough and that there should be a general strike against the Bill, or a series of one-day strikes. There is nothing unpatriotic or undemocratic about the unions. They are decent people. Some are men of real calibre and character, who anybody would be proud to know. I am surprised that to some extent the argument has been transformed. We are not only fighting now to have the Bill's throat cut, to have it abolished, but we are fighting for essential freedoms and liberties that the people have fought for and enjoyed for many years. If the Solicitor-General does not reply adequately, I hope that my hon. Friends will vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Gower
I sincerely hope that after the passing of the Bill we shall see a situation in our economic and industrial life where more and more agreements and contracts will be observed. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite share my hope.
This is one matter on which our future prosperity depends. Only if we can foresee a future where agreements are increasingly observed can we hone for our industrial firms to be able to fulfil their agreements and contracts with overseas purchasers and so on. Therefore, it is highly desirable, however it is achieved, that in future more and more agreements should be fulfilled. Whether this is achieved by the enactment of the Bill or by better relationships between the parties in industry, I hope that this can be achieved and will be achieved and that every hon. Member opposite shares that hope.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) tells us that he is basically opposed to the Clause altogether. But he has now moved an 1676 Amendment having the following effect. He says, "I want the Clause to be amended in this way, that if a person who is not acting on behalf of a trade union or employer's association, and not authorised by a trade union or employer's association, should induce or threaten to induce a breach of contract or agreement, he may do so"—that will be the effect of the Amendment—"provided he does not do it in a newspaper, periodical, book, television, sound broadcast, public meeting or meeting including a membership requirement, and so on". In other words, he can do these things provided he does not do them in one of these ways.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield
The hon. Gentleman is trying to be very pedantic and to turn the Amendment on its head. I do not accept that. The hon. Gentleman has also demonstrated a deplorable lack of knowledge of the way the trade unions are run. I should have thought that the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) is far more relevant than the hon. Gentleman's contribution.
§ Mr. Gower
I can easily turn the Amendment on its head because it deserves to be so turned. The Amendment mentions a "periodical". That could include a house journal in a factory. According to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if we have this position, it would be illegal under the Clause to threaten or induce a breach of contract, but not so in a house journal, which would be a remarkable state of affairs. Similarly, if it were done in the form of some other periodical publication, some kind of newspaper published under any auspices, the action would be legal. The action would be illegal if done in some ways but legal if done in the form of any periodical or newspaper.
The Amendment would not alter the terms of the Clause but would merely prescribe certain methods in which the Clause could not be enforced. This would be an open invitation to anybody wanting to achieve these results to elect to use one of the methods specified in the Amendment. It would be an open invitation to a man wanting to induce a breach of contract to do it in a house journal or a periodical. A person who 1677 wanted to induce a breach of contract under this Clause could do it by one of the methods specified in the Amendment. It deserves to be turned on its head because it is a completely wrecking Amendment designed to destroy the Clause.
If my view spreads beyond the Committee and many people want agreements to be observed in the future, I hope that they will believe that that is what we are trying to achieve.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I wonder how far removed the previous three speakers from the opposite side of the Committee are from the practical realities of industry. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) tried to stand the argument on its head. He began by talking about the need for the acceptance of agreements in industry and the legal enforceability of those agreements. That is what we are talking about. The major employers' association, which pressed and pressed for two years for the legal enforceability of agreements, was the Engineering Employers' Federation. They are the people who said that that was absolutely necessary, as the hon. Gentleman said just now, and yet they have concluded that there is a futility in this argument and they are now prepared to agree to writing into all the contracts which they enter into with engineering workers' unions that there will be no enforceability of trade union agreements.
The question of censorship is very important. The two important phrases are "induce" and "threaten to induce". I have had a fair amount of industrial experience, but I do not know what is meant when it is said that a person is guilty of inducing someone to break his contract—to go out on unofficial strike—or of threatening to induce him so to do.
I postulate the case where there is the possibility of a dispute. A shop steward gives an interview to the local newspaper in the course of which he expresses the opinion that the only solution is to take strike action. In consequence of the interview being published in the newspaper the next day and presumably being read by those involved in the potential dispute, I assume that the statement would constitute an inducement to strike action.
§ Mr. Crowder
If the hon. Gentleman were walking down the corridor and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) dropped her handkerchief on purpose and the hon. Gentleman picked it up, would that be an inducement?
§ Mr. Loughlin
My right hon. Friend and I do not have a contract in terms of the Bill. I know and have a great respect for my right hon. Friend's husband, who is bigger than me. There is no likelihood of there being such a contract.
If men in industry are concerned solely with their language lest they put themselves outside the Bill when enacted, a dialogue cannot be conducted between both sides of industry. If I as a shop steward or an official of the local union branch must concern myself wholly with my language lest, if I use the wrong word or words, the employer is able subsequently to make this charge against me, life would be impossible. I may say to an employer. "The only way to solve this will be by taking the men out on strike". That may well be a threat to induce. It may well be an inducement to the members. It may be a statement made on the spur of the moment by a responsible trade union official. Every hon. Member makes such statements in one walk of life or another. Subsequent to that, but not consequential upon it, a strike may occur. Therefore, as a shop steward or somebody who is not a trade union official I am subject to prosecution. I cannot envisage an industry carrying on on that basis.
Union members in a plant can be just as important in the running of an industry as the shop steward. I was a member of a trade union branch for many years. Often my advice as a member of the trade union committee was more treasured than that of the official shop steward. If I am to conduct my activities in industry on the basis of a choice of words, there cannot be a dialogue between me and the employer. There is therefore bound to be a far greater degree of breach of contract than there would be if the Clause was not in the Bill.
The Solicitor-General must define "induce" and "threaten to induce". It has been alleged that there are spies in industry. This may be exaggerated language. It is possible for a trade union branch meeting to be concerned solely 1679 with one plant and to discuss a specific issue which is a primary concern to the members employed in that plant.
Throughout my union life I have known that whatever I have said at a trade union branch meeting has been retailed to the employer next morning. This applied even when I had the best possible relations with the employer. I had a very good relationship with employers. I operated largely in Birmingham. I can name firm after firm with which I had very good relations. My strike history is as good as that of anyone I know. However, whenever I had a branch meeting I knew that some one who sought to gain benefit would retail precisely what I had said, or perhaps a garbled version of it, to the employer.
This is a most dangerous situation. It is an incentive for such a "spy" to transmit to the employer, and be prepared to say it in court, that the shop steward, or the chairman of the branch committee, or the secretary, of the members of the branch committee, have made certain statements to induce people to strike.
The Solicitor-General should take advice, not only on the Amendment, but on the whole Clause, because it will be damaging to the whole basis of industrial relations and will be more counter-productive than productive.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
On a point of order. Could you, Mr. Mallalieu, say whether you are thinking of having a wide debate on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill?
The Temporary Chairman
I gather that there is to be a fairly wide debate on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I have listened with considerable interest to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). It has been suggested that a column in a trade union journal might induce a breach of contract. I ask myself what penalty would fall on the head of a man who wrote a letter to a trade union journal urging a strike. The only penalty that could fall on him would be, if his letter succeeded and there was a strike, that the employer could sue him for compensation. I should have 1680 thought that it is extremely unlikely that any employer would ever find himself in the ridiculous position of seeking to sue an individual for having written a letter advocating strike action in a trade union journal.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West also referred to a rather different situation where the whole front page of a local newspaper might be taken up with a splash article appealing to men to strike in breach of their individual contracts, without notice and against the wishes of their trade union. If the writer of the article succeeded in inducing men to break their contract, there should be a right for the employer to seek compensation.
§ Mr. Loughlin
The point I made was about a shop steward giving an interview to the local newspaper. The hon. Gentleman will have had the same experience as I have had of such interviews being blown up. My local Press are very good save in one instance of a most appalling headline. The hon. Gentleman is claiming that a man giving an ordinary interview would constitute a sufficient reason for the employer to receive damages.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I do not want the hon. Gentleman to be under a misapprehension. I said specifically that I was referring to a blown-up article and this would presumably be in itself a defence, an article calling for a strike in breach of contract, without notice and against the wishes of the trade union—the three criteria which have to be fulfilled.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I thought I had already made it clear that I was referring to people who are perfectly legitimately trying to persuade their union to take a certain course of action. That is entirely different from trying to induce people to break a contract which they have entered into and which the union has entered into. I hope the learned Solicitor-General will say whether or not I am right on this. There are three fences to be got over. 1681 Hon. Gentlemen opposite in their speeches have ignored the fact that there must be notice to strike, it has to be a strike in breach of procedure and a strike which the union is not prepared to back. Having jumped those three fences, there must be some possibility of the employer being prepared to sue.
§ [Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ In moving the Amendment the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) spoke in the flowery language which is being used to work up heated meetings in the country about the Bill. I do not feel that we should allow his remarks to be reported and repeated without being answered. He referred to the "alleged" problem of unofficial strikes, as if over 90 per cent. of our strikes were not unofficial, unconstitutional and generally unpredictable and this is not therefore a matter of concern——
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield rose——
§ Mr. Mitchell
I have many more points to make about the hon. Gentleman's speech. If he will allow me to make them perhaps he will have an opportunity to reply to them all. The hon. Gentleman talked about the narrowing of the rights of trade union officials to those who have authority to act on behalf of a union. We have already dealt with union rules and how a union has to specify those officials who have the right to commit the union to strike action. Since we have already accepted that part of the Bill, it is extraordinary to suggest that this Clause has the effect of narrowing the rights of trade union officials. It is entirely up to the union whether it does or does not give authority to the shop stewards or unions concerned.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton painted to the House a picture of himself in a terrible position because during the Post Office strike he, as a Member of Parliament, stood up at a public meeting and urged the men to continue their strike. How it could possibly be suggested that he had not the authority of the union, which would surely be blessing him, although the general public might take a different view, is beyond me and beyond the realm of reality.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton spoke of an unofficial strike leader on tele- 1682 vision inducing men to strike action. If he is an unofficial strike leader, he has already succeeded in inducing and is already outside the scope of having the authority of his union. What this Amendment amounts to, quite simply and straightforwardly is an agitators' charter to create the situations——
§ Mr. Mitchell
The difference between the sort of agitator I am referring to and Ernest Bevin is that when Ernest Bevin made a deal he stuck to it and did his damnedest to see that the members of his union stuck to it. Those are the standards which we want to bring back to industrial relations and trade unions.
If accepted, the Amendment would permit a newspaper or even a factory broadsheet to induce a strike. It would permit an agitator or a rabble-rouser who cannot persuade the union of his case to seek to induce people to break their contract——
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield rose——
§ Mr. Mitchell
If I could finish, I should be grateful. It would permit a union to make an agreement today and its shop stewards to come out tomorrow seeking to secure a breach of the agreement they have entered into. Is the hon. Member for Nuneaton suggesting that is a situation which he would wish to condone?
§ Mr. Huckfield
I will not come back on that point. If the hon. Gentleman is supposed to be the chairman of some Conservative trade union advisory committee, I hope he does not give that kind of advice to the people whom he is supposed to represent. It would not be so bad if it were to be left to this side of the House to interpret Clause 85, but it will be left in the hands of the judiciary to decide the meaning of that Clause. 1683 Certainly nothing the hon. Member has said alters my conviction that this Amendment is very necessary.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am intrigued to hear the hon. Member refuse to pick up my challenge that he would condone a situation in which a trade union makes an agreement today and its shop stewards tomorrow seek a breach of that agreement. I thought he would take the opportunity to say that that was not the intention of the Amendment and that he would not wish it to apply in that way. But instead he seeks to dodge the point. The reality is that the Amendment would permit that to happen.
Furthermore, the Amendment would permit the unions to agree to arbitration and then to decide not to use it. Certainly in the current industrial situation this is something the Committee would not wish to see. The whole basis of civilised society rests on people making and sticking to agreements. I am horrified to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite seeking to put up Amendments to prevent people carrying out their standard duties to society.
§ The Solicitor-General
The Committee will forgive me if I resist the temptation to make a speech as though we were discussing the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. I appreciate that the Committee is anxious to get on to that debate and there are a number of points which have been made in this discussion which would arise more appropriately on that Question.
In the context of this debate, I wish to pick up the point made by my hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) and Barry (Mr. Gower) that in general the object of the exercise is to see that contracts are observed and to secure a situation in which it becomes usual and normal for strikes to take place, at least if they are unofficial, after due notice has been given on behalf of the people calling the strike of their intention so to do. That is its limited objective. Even within that objective trade union officials, within the scope of their authority, are still to retain the right to call a strike without notice. Nothing in the Clause will affect the dialogue between both sides of industry, which was mentioned by the hon. Mem- 1684 ber for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). Both sides of industry will want to maintain a continuing dialogue.
The only restraint we are putting forward is that that dialogue should be conducted on terms that due notice should be given of the intention to call a strike, at least if it is a strike called without the authority of the trade union. That is a modest limited protection which is part of a proper compliance with reasonably agreed standards. For that reason I do not see that the Committee should accept the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huck-field) that the roving unofficial strike inducers should retain the right to induce people to break their contracts of employment in the context of an unofficial strike while not acting in the pursuit of union duties. This is one of the points about which Lord Robens has felt so strongly.
§ The Solicitor-General
Lord Robens and many other people have urged that there should be some restraint on the right of unofficial strike leaders to induce strikes in that way.
§ Mr. Eadie
Is the Solicitor-General not aware that work to rule disputes, or what we call ca' canny, are as damaging or as difficult to solve as any others. I have been in a situation in which a contract has gone to arbitration, a bad decision has been made, and in such a situation the men have not come out on strike, but have gone on ca' canny, which is also illegal. As a result of their resort to ca' canny we have had to reach some decision after many months and have had to change the whole contract. What would the Solicitor-General do in such a situation, or would he advocate that we have more ca' cannies and less unofficial action?
§ The Solicitor-General
The question arises whether this arises on Clause 6 or on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. I shall attempt to answer the hon. Gentleman within a limited compass. If the work people decide to work to rule, in other words in accordance with their contracts, there is no question of any unfair industrial practice arising in that respect. I am not anxious to embark on that matter, which we have debated already. Equally, if they 1685 are induced by their trade union officials within the scope of their authority not merely to work to rule in accordance with the contract, but to go slow in whatever way they like, there is no remedy against them or against the trade union official who induces that situation. It is a problem remote from what we are considering here.
We are on the narrow proposition of inducing a strike in breach of individual contracts between worker and employer and that this should not take place unless it is within the authority of the trade union official. The Clause is therefore aimed at wholly unofficial unauthorised people inducing breaches of contract of employment without due notice being given. It does not go beyond that to the extent feared by some hon. Members. In regard to the position of other outside commentators against whom proceedings might be brought, one has to show first that what was being done was done other than by a union official in the exercise of his authority; secondly, that what he was doing amounted to a positive inducement of the breach of contract of employment, going beyond discussion, beyond advice and beyond the making of general speeches about it—in other words, making it plain that what he was doing or threatening to do was to induce people to take strike action in breach of contracts of employment. One has to get to that point before the matter can be established at all. That again takes one on to discussions on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Would the Solicitor-General deal with the question which I posed concerning an interview? Against whom would action be taken—the editor, the reporter, or the shop steward?
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not wish to get on to the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, but once one accepts that it is necessary to limit, as was recommended by the majority of the Donovan Commission, the privileges formerly offered by Section 3 of the 1906 Act to registered people or those acting on their behalf, and that these provisions follow, namely that it becomes unfair or actionable for unofficial people to induce breaches of contract of employment without due notice, it must follow that the prohibition applies quite widely. One cannot accept the implications in the 1686 Amendment that an unofficial wildcat leader wanting to secure an instantaneous strike, who goes to the work place and says, "You will all strike in breach of your contracts tomorrow morning", is acting unfairly—except if he chooses to secure that result by taking a full-page advertisement in the local newspaper.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis rose——
§ The Solicitor-General
I am coming to the points made by the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). One cannot say that that which is unfair in any other situation becomes fair if done in the form of a deliberate securing of strikes, without due notice, on behalf of somebody and with no authority, if done through the medium of an advertisement of that kind.
I come to the example given by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West. Suppose that a shop steward, acting outside the scope of his authority from the union—this is the first premise—goes to the work place and says, "I wish you to strike forthwith", and thereby succeeds in calling them out immediately without any notice being given. If he does that at the work place, then that is an unfair practice within the provisions of Clause 85. If he makes the same observations in full and they are so reported in a newspaper, so that it is plain that he is using the medium of the Press in order to get to a wider audience his inducement to strike without due notice in breach of the contract of employment without authority, then whether he does it in one place or another does not alter the quality of what he is doing. The man who makes the statement is plainly doing it with the intention of procuring that breach and would be procuring that result.
But the reporter, for example, would not be seeking to induce the breach of contract of employment in the ordinary process of reporting a meeting. It may be that, in a given position, a commentator in a newspaper wants to secure some result and sets about writing an article urging men to strike in breach of their contract. If he is doing that, he will be in no different position from an unofficial, roving strike-inducer going up and down the country. There is no reason why someone who chooses to procure that 1687 result through any other means should be in any different position so far as liability is concerned.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Supposing a shop steward at Ford's gives an interview and says to the reporter, "I am telling my workers at Ford's not to go on strike. They must not carry out an unfair industrial practice. But tomorrow I am going to Ascot to see the Ford's directors who will be there, and if any of my colleagues wish to discuss any matter with me I shall be at Ascot. I am telling them that they must not come and discuss this with me and the directors at Ascot". What would happen if all the Ford workers ignored his advice and turned up at Ascot with the directors to discuss the problem? Would it be an industrial dispute?
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman has raised that point before. It would be difficult to see how that could amount to inducing in that kind of way.
I come to the more general point underlying the Clause. There is no question of any censorship being imposed on the Press by this or any other provision of the Bill. The Press and the other media operate, as they have done in many other ways, subject to the ordinary law of the land, and part of the law of the land is that they should have regard to the rights of other people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis), said, people commenting in such public media take care not to commit slander or libel. They take care, for example, not to induce breaches of commercial contracts, quite aside from contracts of employment. If anyone in the Press were to seek to induce people to break commercial contracts in this way, he would be liable. Those concerned have a remedy within civil law and people in the Press have to avoid infringing a whole range of civil rights.
Our modest objective here is that an employer or society is entitled by and large to regard contracts, including contracts of employment, as intended to be honoured to the extent that both sides should give due notice of their intention to determine, that the right to have a contract honoured in that way is a right which should not be interfered with to 1688 the extent to which it has been interfered with under existing legislation, and that the protection from such interference is protection to which the nation or the party whose contract is being broken is entitled against anyone who seeks to interfere with it. It is a simple proposition, and we go beyond it and say that if the person who seeks to interfere with a contract of employment is a trade union or an official acting within the scope of his authority, he may induce people to break that contract.
§ Mr. Driberg
Can we take it from what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said that he accepts the proposition enthusiastically put forward by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis), that the effect of this Clause and the Bill, if this Amendment is rejected, will be to have a restricting effect on the present right of, for instance, television producers to invite an unofficial strike leader to appear on a programme?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am not accepting that in that form. I am certainly not accepting any proposition relating to censorship. There is all the difference in the world, in a society such as ours, between people commenting or organising media respecting the rights of other people defined by the whole range of laws, and any discussion of censorship, which I, like every other hon. Member, reject—indeed, any public surveillance of what might be said. We say that, if the unofficial strike inducer goes on television and uses that medium, in addition to his more local medium, to persuade people to break their contract of employment without notice and without the authority of his union, he should be under liability in respect of that as well. This is entirely consistent with the general point.
I return to the central theme. People who make contracts are in the ordinary way entitled to expect them to be fulfilled. In industrial relations, the problem arises time and again because of the facility with which people break and can be persuaded to break contracts without even giving due notice. We are preserving that right. Anyone may strike. Anyone may induce a strike if he is a trade unionist or a trade union official, unless it is in pursuit of certain very narrowly defined objectives. This is a very narrow limitation confining the right to induce 1689 strikes in breach of contract to officials of trade unions and only that.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) keeps on sounding shocked about it, but it is in line with the recommendations of the Donovan Commission.
§ The Solicitor-General
Indeed it is. Paragraphs 800 and 801 of the Donovan Commission Report make it plain that, where such immunity—that is, immunity under Section 3 of the 1906 Act—…is no longer necessary or desirable in such circumstances …—that is, for unofficial or unorganised bodies, then:In order to avoid a breach of their contracts—and this is the heart of the common sense about it—most employees will need to do no more than give a week's notice of their intention to cease work; and it would not seem unreasonable to ask that they should do so.This is not some dreadful inspired proposition. This is the cool language of the Donovan Commission, which goes on:If the persons who are organising the employees feel for some reason that the protection of Section 3 is vital to them, they can secure it by framing a constitution for themselves with the requisite objects and rules and register themselves as a trade union.Paragraph 801 states:Moreover persons who are in process of organising a nascent trade union are not the only persons or combinations to be borne in mind in this connection. Unofficial bodies … are therefore collectively and severally immune from suit if … they induce workers to break their contracts of employment. The same members consider that the time has come when this immunity should cease".The central proposition is that the same provisions should apply to people, individuals or organisations which are not registered organisations or those acting on their behalf. For that reason, I suggest that this is a consistent provision in the Clause.
§ Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)
I do not intend to follow the Solicitor-General into 1690 arguments about what Donovan did or did not say. That is more appropriate for the debate on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. There is a wide issue of principle on the Clause as a whole on which I know my hon. Friends are anxious to speak. They will be capable of dealing with the points about Donovan.
We have been trying to keep within the narrow confines of the Amendment. Although at first sight it might have appeared to be one of the more subordinate Amendments which we put forward, as the debate proceeded it proved once again to be very wide ranging. Time and again we have found, when we have put down an Amendment as much for clarification as anything else, believing that the Government and the Solicitor-General could not mean what appeared to be meant, that in fact it was meant. This has happened on this fairly narrow point which we have put forward. That is why it has proved an invaluable debate.
I certainly hope that Press and T.V. commentators and all who write, broadcast and disseminate comment of any kind, have taken careful note of what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said this afternoon. Our arguments about the implications of the Clause have not been contested. That has not been the comeback. On the contrary, the implications have been accepted as entirely reasonable and, indeed, desirable.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) endeavoured to justify restrictions on comment which arise under the Clause on the ground that we have too many extremists on T.V. The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) said that it was wrong of us to say that there was any censorship of the Press in suggesting that anybody who made a comment on any matter of public interest in industrial relations ought to take the law into account. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) said that the Amendment, which is designed to try to save free speech in this country from yet further encroachments by the Government, was an agitator's charter.
Finally, the Solicitor-General, confirmed in slightly less purple language the whole theme of the argument from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am not talking about 1691 the cases which have been put forward by my hon. Friends of the shop steward and the unofficial strike leader going on television and being responsible for their own remarks; I am talking about the freedom to comment by the British Press commentators and broadcasters who have exercised, as I know as a former Member of the Labour Government, a great deal of freedom in arguing, exposing and commenting on what the Government do and what happens in industry. We have been told that if any of those commentators say anything which could be held to be inducing or helping to induce a breach of commercial contract, they shall be liable under this law.
§ Mr. Lewis rose——
§ Mrs. Castle
I shall not give way. I promised my hon. Friends that I would be brief. I have listened to the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford. Indeed, his remarks have been one of the jewels which we have garnered from the debate, and, by heaven, we shall bring them to the attention of the public.
The hon. Gentleman asked why commentators should not be limited by what is a new restriction introduced into the law, a new restriction into the argument, first, about what is inducing, and, secondly, whether it is right to abandon the traditional immunity for inducing. We object to the abandonment of this traditional immunity. We contest what the Solicitor-General said about it being in line with Donovan.
I shall try to apply it to the narrow sphere so that my hon. Friends can get to the broader area. Under this kind of provision an industrial correspondent of a responsible newspaper, for instance, commenting on the Pilkington situation, could be held to argue that grievances had become so intolerable and official action so closed to the workers that they were right to take unofficial action and could thereby be caught under this law. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), we are told by the Solicitor-General, could, mild 1692 man as he is, also be found in breach of the Clause by reason of a particular speech.
It is not good enough for the Solicitor-General to say, "We are entitled to restrict freedom of comment in this way because all we are saying is that nobody from henceforth throughout the land in any media may, or should have the right to, induce people to take strike action in breach of contract of employment. We say that that should apply to everybody."
When we say that that is a restriction of freedom of speech, we are told: "Naughty, naughty, naughty. Do you not think that we ought all to tell everybody that they ought to keep agreements? In any case, it is action which is open to a registered trade union." What shall we have next? Registration of journalists in order that they may qualify to comment under this law? That is what we are coming to if the Government have their way.
It is not good enough for the Solicitor-General to say that a way out of this difficulty is to combine together, as good united commentators licensed by this Government, and to say, "All of you should give the requisite strike notice and then everybody will be within the law—commentators and all."
Nothing is as straightforward as it seems in the Bill. There is no guarantee of a simple way of avoiding breach of contract of employment. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the amount of strike notice which ought to be given under any particular contract of employment could vary from worker to worker. There could, therefore, be a walkout in which half the workers might be covered, having given the requisite notice, but the other half might not.
Let us consider the irregular industrial action. The Solicitor-General has just admitted that if there were industrial action of any kind which might be said to have been induced, it would not be covered unless it had been organised by a registered trade union or by a trade union official acting within his authority. Therefore, the Solicitor-General is not concerned how widely the word "inducing" is to be interpreted; he maintains that inducing is not essential to the right to strike and that it is at the heart of our 1693 industrial troubles. He said it categorically—why should anyone be given that right?
That is another example, I suggest, of his personal extremism. I only wish that he would listen to some of the saner voices on his own side of the Committee, like that of the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder),
§ who said frankly and with knowledge and experience, "I do not like the word 'induce'." Nor do we, and that is why I ask my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 249, Noes 283.1697
|Division No. 163.]||AYES||[7.50 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||English, Michael||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Evans, Fred||Loughlin, Charles|
|Allen, Scholefleld||Fernyhough, E.||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Fisher, Mrs. Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Ashley, Jack||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McBride, Neil|
|Ashton, Joe||Foley, Maurice||McCartney, Hugh|
|Atkinson, Norman||Foot, Michael||McElhone, Frank|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ford, Ben||McGuire, Michael|
|Barnett, Joel||Forrester, John||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Bewley, Alan||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mackie, John|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Freeson, Reginald||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Galpern, Sir Myer||Maclennan, Robert|
|Bishop, E. S.||Garrett, W. E.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Gilbert, Dr. John||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Courlay, Harry||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Booth, Albert||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Bradley, Tom||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marquand, David|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Meacher, Michael|
|Buchan, Norman||Hardy, Peter||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mendelson, John|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mikardo, Ian|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Hattersley, Roy||Millan, Bruce|
|Carmichael, Neil||Heffer, Eric S.||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm,Northfield)||Hilton, W. S.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Hooson, Emlyn||Molloy, William|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Horam, John||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Clerk, David (Colne Valley)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Huckfield, Leslie||Morris, Rt. Hn John (Aberavon)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Moyle, Roland|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Murray, Ronald King|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ogden, Eric|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Hunter, Adam||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Cronin, John||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oram, Bert|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Orme, Stanley|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Dalyell, Tam||John, Brynmor||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Davidson, Arthur||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Davies, G. E1led (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, Dart (Burnley)||Parry, Robert Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones,Rt.Hn,Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Pendry, Tom|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Judd, Frank||Pentland, Norman|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Kaufman, Gerald||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Dempsey, James||Kelley, Richard||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Doig, Peter||Kinnock, Neil||Prescott, John|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lambie, David||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lamond, James||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Latham, Arthur||Probert, Arthur|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Rankin, John|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Leadbitter, Ted||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Leonard, Dick||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Eadie, Alex||Lestor, Miss Joan||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lever, Rt. Hn, Harold||Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roderick,CaerwynE.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Ellis, Tom||Lipton, Marcus||Rodgers, Wiliam (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Roper, John||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wallace, George|
|Rose, Paul B.||Strang, Gavin||Watkins, David|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Weitzman, David|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Wellbeloved, James|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Taverne, Dick||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Sillars, James||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)||Whitlock, William|
|Silverman, Julius||Tinn, James||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tomney, Frank||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Small, William||Torney, Tom||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Tuck, Raphael||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Urwin, T. W.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Varley, Eric G.|
|Stallard, A.||Wainwright, Edwin||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Steel, David||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)||Mr.Joseph Harper and|
|Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. John Golding.|
|Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Adley, Robert||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dixon, Piers||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||James, David|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Drayson, G. B.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Astor, John||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Jessel, Toby|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Dykes, Hugh||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Eden, Sir John||Jopling, Michael|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Balniel, Lord||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-uponTyne,N.)||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Emery, Peter||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Eyre, Reginald||Kilfedder, James|
|Bell, Ronald||Farr, John||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Fell, Anthony||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Benyon, W.||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Biffen, John||Fidler, Michael||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Kirk, Peter|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charies||Kitson, Timothy|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Body, Richard||Fortescue, Tim||Knox, David|
|Boscawen, Robert||Foster, Sir John||Lambton, Antony|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fowler, Norman||Lane, David|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fox, Marcus||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Fry, Peter||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Braine, Bernard||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Bray, Ronald||Gardner, Edward||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Brewis, John||Gibson-Watt, David||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Loveridge, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Glyn, Dr. Alan||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bryan, Paul||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||MacArthur, Ian|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Goodhart, Philip||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Goodhew, Victor||McLaren, Martin|
|Burden, F. A.||Gower, Raymond||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn)||Gray, Hamish||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Green, Alan||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grylls, Michael||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Channon, Paul||Gummer, Selwyn||Maddan, Martin|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gurden, Harold||Madel, David|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Marten, Neil|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushciiffe)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maude, Angus|
|Clegg, Walter||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Cockeram, Eric||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooke, Robert||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Coombs, Derek||Haselhurst, Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hastings, Stephen||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Hawkins, Paul||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Cormack, Peter||Hayhoe, Barney||Mitchell,Lt-ColC.(Aberdeenshire,W.)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hicks, Robert||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hiley, Joseph||Moate, Roger|
|Crouch, David||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Molyneaux, James|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Money, Ernie|
|Curran, Charles||Holland, Philip||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Holt, Miss Mary||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Hornby, Richard||More, Jasper|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hornshy-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|d'Avigdor-Coldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Dean, Paul||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hunt, John||Mudd, David|
|Murton, Oscar||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Temple, John M.|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Heave, Alrey||Rost, Peter||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Russell, Sir Ronald||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Normanton, Tom||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Tilney, John|
|Nott, John||Scott, Nicholas||Trafford, D. Anthony|
|Onslow, Cranley||Scott-Hopkins, James||Trew, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Sharples, Richard||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Shelton, William (Clapham)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Simeons, Charles||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)||Sinclair, Sir George||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Peel, John||Skeet, T. H. H.||Waddington, David|
|Percival, Ian||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Soref, Harold||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Speed, Keith||Wall, Patrick|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Spence, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Sproat, Iain||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Stainton, Keith||Warren, Kenneth|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Stanbrook, Ivor||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Stewart-Smith, D. C. (Belper)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Raison, Timothy||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Wilkinson, John|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Stokes, John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Redmond, Robert||Sutcliffe, John||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Tapseil, Peter||Worsley, Marcus|
|Rees, Peter (Dover)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)||Mr. Bernard Weatherill and|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Tebbit, Norman||Mr. Hugh Rossi.|
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)
On a point of order. May I seek your assistance, Miss Harvie Anderson? May I ask you to instruct the attendants not to shut the doors until you personally, as Chairman, so declare? Some confusion arose in the last Division because one door was left open and another was shut. Would you please make it clear that they are not to shut the doors until you tell them to do so?
The Deputy Chairman
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point. I certainly undertake to make that crystal clear to those concerned. Is the right hon. Gentleman asking for the Division to be recalled?
The Deputy Chairman
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I will see that what he requests is done.
§ Mr. Rose
We have had a series of valuable debates on limited aspects of the Clause and I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) because in answer to a number of points that he and others raised we have had some 1698 revealing comments from the Solicitor-General.
By this Clause we see the virtual ending of what have been regarded as traditional immunities under the Trade Disputes Act, 1906. That Act was the settlement of a deep social conflict which rejected the middle-class attitude towards trade unionism which was represented by the Taft Vale decision.
In destroying even those immunities which remain after a number of recent legal decisions, the Solicitor-General is opening wounds the extent and depth of which I do not believe he has yet begun to understand. Like his predecessors at the beginning of this century, he and his right hon. Friends will eventually reap the whirlwind. He has neatly disguised, by obscure legal language, some subtle definitions, changes and a number of hidden cross-references. This shields his desire to destroy trade union immunities which have been established for 66 years.
The hon. and learned Gentleman will be looked upon in the coming four years as the architect of the destruction of the Conservative Government. I urge him to ponder what happened at the beginning of the century and, at the same time, to look at the Clause. Then let hon. Gentlemen opposite read the standard A level textbook on the birth of the party which hon. Gentlemen opposite recently 1699 replaced on the benches opposite. It says:For a year or two its Secretary, J. Ramsay MacDonald, had a hard task to keep the new craft moving; but then a sudden wind filled its sails and blew hard in its favour till the general election. The source was a judicial decision, and that is the Taft Vale case.Already this Bill is acting as a catalyst for the Labour Movement, as the Taft Vale decision did. As my hon. Friends and I address larger and more enthuiastic audiences than we have ever known, we see a regeneration of the Labour Movement of a type that was seen following the Taft Vale decision; and that swept 53 hon. Members into the House of Commons as Labour hon. Members. I am sure that this proposal of the Solicitor-General will sweep in at least another 53 Labour hon. Members.
We see here basically the destruction of the 1906 Act by subterfuge by the back door, just as in Section 6 we saw the destruction of the 1965 Trade Disputes Act, turning us back to the Rookes v. Barnard case. This is all because of the introduction of an alien concept of unfair industrial practice.
At the same time, we must consider the question of inducement, and we have still to hear about this from the Solicitor-General. Indeed, we have yet to hear from him about anything. We heard in the earlier debates of danger not only to members of the trade union movement but to ordinary political commentators—to people who are involved in the mass media and who, by reason of that, may be guilty of an unfair industrial practice because, as a result of what they say, they may induce a breach of contract.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) referred to the right to strike and his remarks were particularly relevant because it is impossible to envisage a strike as a result of which there is not a breach of some description. It may not be a breach of contract of employment but a breach of contract between an employer and some third party. This situation has been entirely overlooked in the Solicitor-General's consideration of this aspect, and we shall return to it.
As for the definition of an industrial dispute, as I said when we discussed an earlier Amendment, the Solicitor-General may have been hoping that nobody would 1700 notice that he has left out the question of a dispute between one group of workers and another. As I pointed out, this frequently arises, not because of a fault of the workers but because of a fault on the part of management, perhaps through their failure to present sufficient information or through bad decision-making.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has now introduced this in the concept of the agency shop, with bargaining units which are bound to cause friction and increase the number of inter-union disputes, and these will no longer be afforded the protection which they have had since 1906. It is vital, therefore, that we resist what may otherwise have been a minor irritant, albeit another departure from Donovan.
We accept the Donovan Report in regard to an inducement to breach a commercial contract because it has become increasingly common for employers to obtain injunctions against union officials for inducing a breach. For example, Lord Denning went so far as to use the term "interfering with commercial contracts". We have the Torquay Hotel case and the case of the Boston Deep Sea Fisheries.
However, this has more serious implications, which I am sure the Solicitor-General must have realised, because he has to a limited degree accepted the point in regard to the breach of commercial contracts. To carry out their functions, trade unions must not only be permitted to strike in breach of contract but their officials and members who carry out policy must be immune; and as far as I can see the hon. and learned Gentleman has not dealt with the problem of individuals compared with the problems of trade unions as a whole.
The hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware of the problem posed by the case of Emerald v. Lowthian, where an injunction was granted against officers of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers preventing them from taking official action against a labour only sub-contractor. Since the purpose of these sub-contractors is to supply labour only and since any industrial action must interfere with that supply, there must be a tort of inducement; and the right to strike can be stopped by this legal subterfuge.
1701 The hon. and learned Gentleman is extending the limited protection, but it will apply only to registered trade unions or the officials of such unions acting within the scope of their authority; and we will return to this subject also. The fact remains that every striker must envisage that as a result of his action, some contract will be breached, even if he gives due notice, and there may be all sorts of periods of notice, according to the individual person involved. After the dangerous dicta in Stratford v. Lindley and Rookes v. Barnard, we can see the extent of the vulnerability of all registered unions.
Perhaps the Solicitor-General will read the evidence given to the Donovan Commission by the Society of Labour Lawyers, by the Haldane Society and by Professor Wedderburn. I address myself to the Solicitor-General not just because he has been the only Minister on the Front Bench today—I make no criticism of his right hon. and hon. Friends—but because this is his Bill. The Secretary of State reminds me of some maiden who has been seduced by the soft tongue of the Solicitor-General, unwilling to divulge the paternity of the monster with which he has been left. Plainly, the Solicitor-General is responsible for the drafting of these proposals. He will remember that, on Second Reading, I asked his right hon. Friend:Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify Clause 86, with regard to aiding and abetting, which hitherto has been a strictly criminal concept? Does it mean that the trade union which supports action under Clause 85 and turns a strike into an official strike is guilty of aiding and abetting and loses the immunity of the 1906 Act?His right hon. Friend replied:Perhaps I might ask one of my hon. Friends to deal with that point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1970, Vol. 808, c. 979.]I assume that the right hon. Gentleman intended to ask the Solicitor-General. We have waited since before Christmas for a reply from the hon. and learned Gentleman. We are very patient on this side, but I hope that we shall not have to wait until next Christmas for a reply.
The Solicitor-General will argue that officials of registered trade unions will enjoy immunity for acts done within the scope of their authority. But the courts will have a good deal of fun sorting out 1702 what is mean by "within the scope of their authority", and what is or is not within that scope, according to their particular rules. More than that, who is a trade union official? Is the Solicitor-General familiar with the rules of the A.U.E.W. and who is a trade union official according to those rules?
Even though we have the bribe of Clause 90(5), one can imagine nothing more calculated to cause seething anger on the shop floor than to compel the industrial tribunals or the N.I.R.C. to milk the unions' funds or to punish individual strikers or those inducing a strike while protecting the union official who called the strike. That is the cumulative effect of these provisions, as I understand it. It could be the greatest ever irritant thrown into trade union law, with two possible exceptions—the blacklegs' charter in Clause 61(7) and the agency shop concept which is causing both employers and employees throughout the country to throw up their hands in horror.
If we want more evidence of the ingenious way in which the Solicitor-General has played with definitions, we have merely to look at his use of the term "relates to" instead of "connected with". Although the difference may seem subtle, it is none the less serious because it is yet another restriction, and another narrowing of the protection offered to the trade union movement and individual trade unions.
Above all—I repeat what I said on an earlier Amendment—the ordinary worker who is not a member of a registered trade union has lost his right to organise and strike, in clear breach of Article 6 of the European Social Charter. The Solicitor-General must not pray Donovan in aid here. It is curious that throughout our debates he has rejected Donovan, but, when he finds a 7 to 5 majority in favour of a particular proposal, although there is no reference there to individual trade unions—he has not answered that point—he suddenly prays Donovan in aid. But he fails to put Donovan in the context of what it meant by registration or to put it in the context of registration with an appeals machinery entirely different from that which he proposes in the Bill, under which he brings in the N.I.R.C. instead of a panel with a majority of trade unionists.
1703 This comment was made by the Economic Journal in March 1969:This would not merely expose unofficial strikers to legal action … but also effectively withdraw the right to strike from non-unionists and from members of unregistered trade unions. The proposal is extraordinary in the main context of the Royal Commission's argument, which is that legal penalties on strikes are likely to be ineffective and that the right approach is to remove their causes—which it finds mainly in irrational wage structures and defective grievance procedures.8.15 p.m.
What immunity is left when we add Clause 85 to Clause 86 and find that the very protection offered in Clause 85 disintegrates at a stroke as soon as one brings in the aiding and abetting provisions of Clause 86, when a trade union renders what was originally an unofficial strike official, which would seem to me to amount to aiding and abetting? To put it the other way, what would happen if a trade union decided in advance that every strike called by its members would be official? The Solicitor-General has some very difficult problems to deal with there.
The protection given here is, to my mind, irrelevant because of the curious way in which the Solicitor-General has inter-related these Clauses and altered the definition of "industrial dispute" to make it so much more restrictive. Hiding behind these technicalities and legalisms, the hon. and learned Gentleman is making the same terrible mistake as was made over 60 years ago which swept his party from the Government side of the House. He must explain why, for the first time in this country, in a free society, the right to strike has been taken away from all but State-licensed trade unions, and in their case their rights have been severely curtailed by Clause 85 in conjunction with Clauses 86 and 87. The hon. and learned Gentleman is turning the clock back 70 years for registered trade unions, and longer for non-registered trade unions.
This is an intolerable Measure. I have attacked it previously on the ground that it is impractical, unenforceable and irrelevant. I regard this Clause as vicious.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) was an engaging 1704 mixture. He managed to instil into it a certain amount of highly selective delving into history, peppering it with a good deal of polemics, and a cursory glance now and then at the law, but not for long. He then indulged in the dangerous delights of prophecy about the probable political effects of the Bill on this country's electoral fortunes.
I have been in the House longer than the hon. Gentleman, and I am more cautious in political prophecy, but we can at least judge the accuracy of his prophecy by the accuracy of his assessment of the present situation.
At the beginning of his speech the hon. Gentleman said that the effect of the Bill in the country was favourable to the fortunes of the Labour Party, and he prayed in aid the meetings which he has been addressing, meetings which, he said, are growing larger. But the focal point in that assessment is: At what figure did they start? If they were but teeny-weeny meetings with which the hon. Gentleman started, a very small addition to them would not be highly significant. All I know is that the one manifestation against the Bill in my constituency has been a considerable flop, and, from what I hear, that experience is paralleled in a good many parts of the country. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is no longer a constituent of mine, which I regret on personal grounds, but if he wishes to make a point I shall gladly give way.
§ Mr. Heffer
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman came to Liverpool he would find that thousands upon thousands of workers——
§ Mr. Heffer
I know about Liverpool. The right hon. and learned Gentleman would find that thousands and thousands of workers have demonstrated at various demonstrations and meetings against the Bill.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Perhaps I shall be able to arrange a visit. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will accommodate me with a pair to enable me to do so, and we shall have a very agreeable time.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
We do not need a pair to go to the hon. Gentleman's constituency.
On one point I agree with the hon. Member for Blackley, and that is on the importance both of the Clause and, in this context, the Opposition Amendment No. 796, which was not selected. The Amendments selected, while raising important and interesting points, did not go to the heart of the matter, but that Amendment would have done so if it had been selected. No doubt it was not selected because it went so much to the heart of the matter as to get rid of the Clause lock, stock and barrel. It shows the Opposition's approach in the matter, that they would like to revert to the pervasive immunity of Section 3 of the Trades Disputes Act, 1906, immunity for all, registered and unregistered, collective and individual.
Indeed, the Opposition wish to go further than even Section 3, because Amendment No. 796 would leave out the limiting words of that Section. Section 3 is limited to contracts of employment, but the Opposition would like to include all contracts, with no limitations. So it is not even true to say that they want to put the clock back to 1906, if I may borrow the hon. Gentleman's phrase. They want to give a still wider immunity.
It is clear that the Opposition would like to proceed as if Part IV of the Bill did not exist. On that artificial assumption they would in effect do away with the Clause. They are quite entitled to wish that Part IV did not exist, but when we are debating Part V we must have regard to what the Committee has done. It has accepted Part IV, and we now proceed on the assumption that there is a system of registration to be put into force and a prescribed dichotomy between registered and unregistered bodies and between their respective rights and liabilities.
At this stage we can pose the question and face up to the issue. The question, as I see it, is this: which approach is better and more logical, having regard to all the factors—the Clause 85 approach or the reversion to the previous practice, perhaps reinforced by the extension brought about by the omission of the restrictive words in Section 3 of the 1906 Act. The factors include on the one hand 1706 the desirability of preserving reasonable rights of strike action and on the other the desirability of upholding the sanctity of contracts and the rights of parties. The matter is well put in paragraph 848 of Donovan, where the Royal Commission says:It is thus very largely for the law of tort to draw the line between the protection of the right to strike which, as Lord Wright said in a celebrated judgment, is 'an essential element in the principle of collective bargaining', and the protection of the rights of others which may be adversely affected by its exercise.That balance must be struck, and amongst the relevant factors we must take into account are Part IV and the fact of registration. The Clause takes account of both these things.
One of the most important consequences of registration is that certain acts will be lawful for registered trade unions and their officials acting within the scope of their authority, but will be unlawful for others. If we went back on that, we should reverse the whole pattern of the Bill in this context and undermine its basic purpose. [Interruption.] As I have said, hon. Members opposite are entitled to want to do that, but we are approaching the matter now on the basis that the Committee has passed Part IV.
The basic question is this: is immunity from action for tort, which means action for a civil wrong, a privilege which should be appropriately restricted to registered trade unionists, or should it be available for all, irrespective of registration, on the basis that they would otherwise suffer unfair discrimination?
To answer that question we must look at the legal and social background and the nature of the immunity. The starting point is found in the words in the leading text book, Clerk and Lindsell on Torts at paragraph 792:Knowingly to procure"—or, as it is sometimes put, to induce—a third party to break his contract to the damage of the other contracting party without reasonable justification or excuse is a tort.So, apart from any statutory immunity, inducing a breach of contract is a civil wrong. It is something which causes damage to an innocent third party and therefore, apart from special considerations, the right of sanctity of contracts should be protected. If there is to be an 1707 immunity, that immunity must be justified for good social reasons. Section 3 of the 1906 Act provided a statutory protection in respect of the tort of inducing a breach of contract of employment, but, in the words of Professor Wedderburn,It was expressed in language that establishes formal privileges or immunities in a trade dispute.That privilege or immunity is not done away with in Clause 85. On the contrary, it is expressly preserved for registered trade unions and their officials acting within the scope of their authority. But it is restricted to them.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Rose
Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will put Professor Wedderburn's comment in context. It is not right that he pointed out that the words "immunities and privileges" only arise because, originally, trade unions were unlawful conspiracies. Professor Wedderburn is at pains to point out that this in no way represents what they are. He regards these as rights, and those words have been brought into law because of the early state of trade unionism.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
They are rights in law in the sense that everything given by statute is a right. But anything given exceptionally as a departure from the normal law is not only a right; it is also a privilege or an immunity in every sense of those words.
It is not right for the hon. Gentleman to denounce the Bill in general and the Clause in particular as a retrograde Measure when it expressly preserves the immunity for trade unions on condition that they are registered according to the pattern and principles of Part IV.
§ Mr. Heffer
Surely that obviously means that the right is being limited. This must be a diminution of the right which existed previously.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman puts it that way but, of course, he will appreciate that one starts a stage further back. One starts with the ordinary right of parties to have their contracts upheld and to be protected against unlawful inducement to break them. To give any exception to that is of itself a right and a privilege and that right and 1708 privilege can be given only so far as it can be socially justified.
That is the dividing line between me and the hon. Gentleman. I am happy for that privilege and immunity to be extended as far as it properly can be. But I would not be happy for it to be extended regardless of the other factor which Donovan and our own common sense tell us to weigh in the balance; that is to say, the rights of parties to a contract. In my view, the Bill's approach is right. This privilege, immunity or right, whatever one cares to call it, should not go beyond those responsibly and representatively engaged in the processes of collective bargaining.
Of its nature, this is an exceptional immunity granted as an exception to the normal behaviour expected in commercial and industrial life and contrary to the normal philosophy of upholding the sanctity of contract. Being exceptional, therefore, the limitation which confines the immunity to registered trade unions and to those acting within the scope of their authority is not unreasonable. Again, I must differ from the hon. Gentleman when he suggests that the introduction of the words "scope of his authority" would give a great deal of difficulty. This is a concept which is well known to the law and about which there is a good deal of authority to guide us.
It is right and reasonable that the privilege is limited to those and those alone for whom the action of inducing a breach of contract may be part of industrial action entered upon in a representative and responsible capacity. I believe that the case has not been made out for varying the Bill and extending this immunity to unregistered organisations and those acting for them. After all, whether they be unregistered organisations or individuals, their motives and interests may be good: they may be mixed: they also may be mischievous. If we depart from the principle of limiting the provision to the registered unions we treat all those alike. Similarly, whatever their status and permanence may be, they would be treated alike if the Clause were omitted and would be allowed to commit a civil wrong and thereby injure third parties.
It is unregistered organisations and those alone who will come under the constraints of an unfair industrial practice under Clause 85 if they induce a breach 1709 of contract, and they alone who will be answerable to the industrial court under Clause 90 if a complaint is made.
Even in respect of them, if a complaint is made and the matter goes to the industrial court, the court has to be satisfied that the complaint is well founded. In other words, the onus is on the complainant, even in the case of the unregistered organisation, and any remedy is in the discretion of the Court and, in the words of Clause 90, can be given only if it isjust and equitable so to doThe Clause gives sufficient safeguards for unregistered organisations and at the same time an appropriate immunity for responsible and representative registered trade unions and their officials acting within the scope of their authority. The balance has been fairly struck by the Clause and to go back on it or to weaken it would destroy part of the pattern and purpose of the Bill.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
The whole Committee recognises the considerable legal knowledge and experience of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), as it does the possibly lesser experience, but nevertheless considerable knowledge, of the Solicitor-General. What the Opposition very much doubt is whether that legal experience and knowledge properly match the realities of British industry and whether the Bill will help to create the national industrial unity at the point of production which is needed if we are to make our way as an industrial nation.
This is the first time that I have taken part in these debates, for my attention has been directed to other Parliamentary matters. I bring to these discussions the attention which is important in debates of this kind and a background of considerable experience in the trade union movement. I hope that I shall be allowed to allude to that, because we must condition our thoughts and what we have to say to our experience, for there is no substitute for experience. I believe that to be the common quest of both sides of the Committee, but I profoundly believe that the Government are considerably mistaken in their revolutionary legal incursion into industrial relations, which is what the Bill is all about.
I am concerned about Clause 85, especially as my right hon. Friend the Member 1710 for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) went beyond the general ideas of the Donovan Commission in this respect. The Solicitor-General described this as the heartland of the Donovan Report, but that is a gross error, for the Report rejected the proposals to which we have fundamental objections. Clause 85 is concerned with preserving the right to strike while attempting to deal with the unofficial strike, which in this country is mostly short-lived and which is not always about wages and hard bargaining on the factory floor, but sometimes about conditions. It has become the lightning strike, what the Americans have called the wildcat strike.
The last place on earth where we want to go for guidance on matters about the unofficial strike is the United States. There, when they get to the end of the contract period there are bloody and bitter collisions involving the use of tear gas and water cannon with the violence which must necessarily arise from that. I do not want this Committee to do anything which will lead to that.
As I have said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn some time back in our discussions, we cannot make an absolute division between the feelings of working people on the question of official and unofficial strikes. It is much better to be involved in an official strike, but things do not always work out like that. The unofficial strike in a sense is an adjunct to our history of industrial relations development leading to the official strike. Some union officials do not mind, they give a bit of a nod and a wink to the unofficial strike because things have grown up in that way. There are other leaders who detest this kind of development. We have to set it in the complex situation throughout British industry. It varies tremendously.
Before I became a trades union education officer—and I worked with the T.U.C. before coming here—I was a railwayman. I was a freight guard, and a shunter, working in filthy, dangerous conditions. Earlier I asked the Solicitor-General for some information, because what can happen in some circumstances is that things blow up from small beginnings and they can create difficult situations when one worker takes unilateral action.
I was thinking of my days when I was a railway shunter and would go in the 1711 black of night along a siding where pig iron and other scrap iron was being unloaded. There would be so much of it spilled in the footway that it was highly dangerous to carry out any operations. It might be said that no one in their right mind would take any disciplinary action against me if I suggested, not as a trade union official but as a worker, or as someone who collected the trade union dues and who was therefore looked upon as someone a little more advanced in trade union activity than the bulk of the workers that some action should be taken.
It could grow out of something like that. When we talk about law it is as serious as that. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East talked in terms of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) giving a cursory look at the law now and again. That is exactly as it should be in the best kind of industrial relations which we want to see promoted here. I would be going wide of the debate if I dealt with how relations can be bettered within a concept of Government partnership with industry, trades union management and industrial management. I know a fair amount, because of my background, about trade union law but I would not try to fight with lawyers. My favourite bedtime reading is not Clerk and Lindsell. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has talked in terms of an extension of privilege and immunity. We cannot extend what does not exist. We are talking in terms of the Bill.
All hon. Members opposite, and some on this side of the Committee, could learn a great deal from Victor Feather's very good book called "The Essence of Trade Unionism". He shows that the character of British trade unionism is different from that of trade unionism in other countries. He shows how a major wage claim can start from very small beginnings, how discontent can grow and how the skill of industrial management comes into these matters.
It is astonishing that, although we have heard living experiences related from this side of the Committee, there has been an absence, with one or two exceptions of hon. Members opposite telling us of their living experiences as employers and members of management in industry. The 1712 trade union movement has called the Bill a lawyer's paradise. This Clause is an extension of it.
The Solicitor-General gave away the essential thinking of most hon. Members opposite about workers wanting to walk out at the drop of a hat. He used the expression "wild-cat strike". Many people not in trade unions and many card holders in unions who have not been involved in fierce collisions or struggles with the employers want to disown strikes until they begin to understand them and go more deeply into them.
When one reacts to a Clause of this kind, it seems that one is being completely negative. We do not like or require compulsory registration. As with arbitration, the decision must be completely free. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East is quite right. We view these matters differently. When one is well off, individualism can be rampant. When one is poor and a wage earner with no income from investments and no stake in the ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, the situation is entirely different. We can begin to achieve equality only when we combine with our fellows. That is bitten deep into the hearts of the British working class and no Clause of this kind will eradicate it because free men will struggle.
When I was a shunter my union had a rule book. If we applied the rules we stopped the job. On occasions we had work-to-rule policies. The rule book would become part of the contract. The contract is broken every day for a great variety of reasons. In future workers will have to take the rule book with them to be sure of their ground. But they will also have to take the law book. It will not be "The Thoughts of Chairman Mao". It will be "The Thoughts of Geoffrey Howe".
This massive Bill is an ingenious closing-up of the loopholes of overtime bans, unofficial movements and so on. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have it exactly wrong. We want our industrial relations changed. We will get them better. Already there is movement in that direction. We want more authority put in the hands of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. That would be possible but not with the present Government, who have 1713 united the entire officialdom of the trade union movement.
It is a miracle not that all trade union members who understand it a little, a little bit better or better still oppose it but that the entire trade union movement's officialdom is implacably opposed to the Measure. The Bill is a sort of excess of theoretical ability, but it does not measure up to the practicalities of industry.
I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson). It is not much good arguing about these Clauses. It is like hitting one's head against a brick wall. We should have a damned fine demonstration about the whole Measure, which is the way in which the trade union movement is doing it. But we have to set the record right and argue it Clause by Clause to show, not merely that we know as much about it as most hon. Members on the other side, but that we know a damn sight more.
It is no dice. It is a recipe for collision and blow-up in British industry. It will not work. Throw it out. It is the hon. and learned Gentleman's baby. Throw the baby out with the bathwater. It will not solve the problems facing us. It will not bring about the spurt in productivity which we need to stay alive as an industrial nation.
§ [Mr. BRYANT GODMAN IRVINE in the Chair]
§ Mr. Scott
The Committee always listens to the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) with a great deal of respect, especially when he speaks about subjects within his direct experience. I was slightly surprised to hear him argue for more power to be put into the hands of the Trades Union Congress. If the hon. Gentleman means power in terms of bargaining about wages and conditions, that seems to fly directly in the face of experience——
§ Mr. Bidwell
If I may qualify that, it is to get the affiliated unions centrally to come closer to the ideas of the T.U.C., working in harmony with the Government. They cannot do that under the Tory Government. They can do it successfully with a Labour Government, working out common targets and national 1714 economic objectives. In that setting, the affiliated unions will be prepared voluntarily to accept ideas for more collective or centralised leadership in a unique British way.
The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) will not be led too far into temptation.
§ Mr. Scott
Perhaps there is a rôle for the T.U.C. with a Conservative Government as well as with a Labour Government—not so much power as an educational and persuasive rôle. We know that the hon. Member for Southall is opposed to the Bill. In his peroration he came to the whole concept and wording of it, and he wants to throw it out. Yet, in spite of the rigidly doctrinaire attitude of hon. Members opposite about many of the Clauses, I believe that the Committee stage will at the end of the day be shown to have improved the Bill and to have made it more workable.
§ Mr. Scott
I became diverted from my main theme.
Another matter in which I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Southall is his difficulty in working his way through Clerk and Lindsell on Torts. I hope that we shall be able to get from my hon. and learned Friend a clear and authoritative statement about "induce". Acts of inducement so far as they relate to the general law of contract require, as I understand it, knowledge and intention on the part of the person who is doing the inducement, and the inducement may not simply be advice; it must be active persuasion and enticement.
We must not allow "induce" in any way to inhibit fair discussion at a meeting about the full range of possibilities of action which might be open at any time. There must be a real sense of active persuasion for a breach of contract to 1715 take place for it to be included within "inducement".
The Clause seeks to make itan unfair industrial practice for any personother than a trade union or its authorised officersto induce or threaten to induce another person to break a contract to which that other person is a partyand thus to make the unofficial promoter of a strike in breach of an agreement liable to action in court and then for the court to have three options open to it—first, an order determining the rights of the two sides; second, compensation; and, third, an order to the respondent to refrain from further action.
Much emphasis is always placed on compensation. I think that in practice the most frequent order which is likely to be made is an order to the respondent to refrain from further action.
The question the Committee must decide is: is it right that anybody should have the right to induce anybody to break his contract of service? I acknowledge that the question can be answered in different ways, but I am sure we can agree that this is the question.
§ Mr. Heffer
Before the hon. Gentleman reaches that part, will he tell us, because we have not yet heard it from the Solicitor-General, how it will be known who is inducing groups of workers? Will somebody be planted amongst them who will dash to the employer to report that somebody has made a speech and is inducing the workers to take action? How will this be known? What sort of spy system will be established to sort the matter out?
§ Mr. Scott
Hon. Members opposite are continually accusing us of having no industrial experience. I have worked in a factory and have had management experience on the shop floor, which gives me as much right as hon. Members opposite to speak on this subject. In the vast majority of cases, certainly those that 1716 are likely to come before a court, there will be no trouble in identifying those who induce a strike. There may on occasions be difficulty, but then no action will come to the court. If the person cannot be identified no action can be taken, but in most cases it will be quite apparent who has induced the strike—in fact no secret is made of it. Someone, perhaps not even an employee of the firm, may induce an action for breach of agreement, or an employee may hold an open meeting and do so. It will be absolutely clear who has induced the breach of contract.
I come back to the point that we are asking the Committee to state whether anybody should have the right to induce people to break their contract of service. If hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that the mass of the people are opposed to the Clause, they are totally out of touch with reality. A criticism that I have frequently heard—and I disagree with it—is, why should unions and their authorised officers be totally immune if they are encouraging a breach of contract? I am not arguing that this is right, I agree that they should be immune, but it is an aspect of public opinion which hon. Gentlemen opposite should bear in mind.
§ Mr. Kinnock
On this point of public opinion that the hon. Gentleman has brought in to substantiate his rather general remarks, the public might give general acclaim to this Measure, but when that public is affected by intolerable conditions, intolerable wage standards or a sudden difficult industrial situation, as a former industrial manager does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the public view of the Clause will be entirely different, and that it will be difficult to establish who induced the breach of contract and to criticise those who breach the contract?
§ Mr. Scott
In practice the Clause will work fairly, and I do not believe that there will be that sort of reaction. The Clause does not prevent strikes, it does not take away the right to strike, but it does affect the right of individuals, other than trade unions or their authorised officials, to induce people to break contracts of service. Is that really so tyrannical an intervention of the law?
§ Mr. Scott
The country should judge that. In all fairness, I do not believe that it is. The Clause will shift the balance towards constitutional industrial action which is in accord with contracts that have been freely bargained and freely entered into by both sides, and it shifts the balance towards action which has been initiated and led by the trade union as opposed to action which has been initiated and led by unofficial bodies. There are few people in the country who doubt that such a shift in balance is appropriate and overdue. It is surely right that a distinction as to rights and privileges should be drawn between properly constituted trade unions and other bodies.
I did not intervene at the time, but I should like to refer to the person who has a conscientious objection to supplying arms. Here the same principles apply. The position of the individual is not changed by the Bill. When the Bill becomes law a person will be able to refuse to do certain work on grounds of conscience in the same way as he can now.
The trade union officials are protected. The Clause does not prevent the conscientious objector taking action. It seeks to extend to them precisely the same shift in balance as elsewhere, that is to say towards constitutional action and action which is led and initiated by the union. I am sure that this shift is overdue and is supported by the vast majority of people.
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) laid great emphasis on the shift in balance. We do not consider that it is a shift in balance. We regard it as a landslide in favour of the employers, of the Government, and of the machine which they are bringing in to back it up. I say to the hon. Gentleman—whose record on international affairs, on the colour question, and on the rights of the individual is second to none—that he ought also to consider the people whom he represents in this country, many of whom, if the Bill goes through as drafted, will move from first-class citizen status to second-class citizen status.
The whole question of the breaking of agreements and contracts is not a black 1718 and white issue. The fact we have opposed legally enforceable agreements is due to the fact that we feel agreements cannot be so perfect as not to be open to many interpretations. An agreement in industry is not like an agreement between two individuals in a particular set of circumstances. It is an agreement which is effective within a plant or union. It may involve many hundreds or thousands of workers, many of whom have a different interpretation of an agreement, and management itself may have different interpretations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) was for many years a convenor in one of the largest plants in Britain. He will know that an agreement which may be in dispute in one department, may be completely accepted in another department.
The Solicitor-General said that all that is needed is for us to accept agreements, and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) intervened to instance Clause 39, which will make it possible to enforce agreements. The Solicitor-General felt that it was a matter of carrying out lawful agreements. But it will not be as easy as that since agreements can be interpreted in so many different ways. The industrial situation is much more difficult.
I myself have not taken part in negotiating national agreements since I was never a full-time official of a union. I have been an official of my union for many years and have taken part in negotiating local agreements and factory and plant agreements. Those of us who have taken part in such negotiations know that with the force of law behind those agreements they would have become absolute nonsense. The employers themselves recognise this and are becoming more and more worried about the situation. We are told by the Solicitor-General that what he is trying to do is to cut out the unofficial strike, the lightning strike, and so forth, and that these are at the root of all our industrial troubles. Is it? Donovan talks about 95 per cent. of our strikes being unofficial. That passage is frequently quoted at us. But the report goes on to say that these last only for a maximum of three days and that official disputes at the time the report was written lasted three times longer than unofficial disputes.
1719 What is an unofficial dispute? I worked in the engineering industry for about 25 years and many of our members went on unofficial dispute because they reacted immediately to some change in management practice, to some form of interpretation which the management was putting on an agreement. They may have been out for an hour, a day, two days, three days, perhaps a week. But the Donovan Report does not go on to say in how many of the 95 per cent. unofficial strikes the men were paid dispute benefit by their trade union at a later date.
One should also make it clear that the trade unions could have reversed the rule book and made every strike official from the time it began. Why did they not do so? They did not do so in order to assist industrial harmony. They put it the other way round. They put it in such a way that members, as it were, could blow off steam, and, if it were possible, get their grievance settled quickly. On many occasions it was settled within an hour. If they could get that grievance settled, back they went to work, the machinery of the union was not involved and the whole paraphernalia which might have solidified the situation and maintained the dispute was removed. The Solicitor-General must face this situation.
I do not retract from any of the arguments we had about the Press, which revealed a very interesting situation. In fact, when I interjected from a seated position and said to the Solicitor-General, "A reduction of freedom, then?", he replied, "Yes, of course." He went on to say that it was not a large reduction in freedom. But he confirmed the point that this was a basic reduction in freedom. This is something to emerge from the debate which we did not expect. We did not come into the debate prepared for the fact that the Solicitor-General, who is supposed to be such a liberal in these matters of Press freedom and freedom of speech, would say that.
§ Mr. Orme
My hon. Friend says that he could have fooled him, but I always try to give principles to my political 1720 opponents. Unfortunately, of course, the Solicitor-General in fact confirms the very worst fears of my hon. Friends on this point. But when we move away from that, when we move away from these issues, important as they are—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) is a journalist—and really understand this matter, we realise that the question of the inducement is going to be the inducement within the factory itself. This is where it will come.
Who will report people to the Industrial Court? Supposing, for instance, the shop steward makes a recommendation to his members because of some outrage—and how many of us have seen this happen? Some of us have worked for employers who have recognised the value of trade unions and proper negotiations, but even in these circumstances at times there has had to be a lightning automatic reaction to what people see as a fact—a lessening of natural justice within industry. I have seen trade unionists respond in industry to situations that have not been directly affecting them in that sense. They have responded in a human manner to a situation. I could give illustrations.
We could have a situation where a shop steward—it might not be a shop steward; it could be any individual—said to the men, "I think that we ought to take immediate action". More than likely, the men will have a vote on the matter and they might, by a large majority, vote in favour of that action. Who is responsible for the inducement then: the shop steward who has asked for it or the men who voted?
§ Mr. Scott rose——
§ Mr. Orme
I should like to make this point before giving way to the hon. Member for Paddington, South.
I think that the Solicitor-General has a duty to say how this kind of thing will be conducted on the shop floor; who will be the narks; who will be responsible; who will be the witnesses; and who will carry out this law. This is not only a change in industrial law and negotiations; it is a change in our basic freedoms, which trade unionists will not see eroded.
§ Mr. Scott
I wonder how realistic is the scenario which the hon. Gentleman has just narrated—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will never let me finish a sentence. Where workpeople, not necessarily spontaneously, react to a situation in a factory where their rights and working conditions have suddenly been affected by bad management, is it realistic to think that that management will then resort to the courts and try to get a settlement in the courts? Even if it does, the Bill provides that the courts must bear in mind the extent to which that party has contributed to or caused the matter in question. I think that the hon. Gentleman is flying wide of reality.
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Gentleman thinks that I am flying wide. However, I should like to deal with the point which he has put to the Committee. This is absolutely central to the whole issue. We are talking about a breach of an agreement. The Clause states,threaten to induce another person to break a contract—a contract, which the Bill is trying to make legally enforceable—and that, in effect, means that a trade unionist cannot do anything without breaking it. If the hon. Gentleman can tell me how men can go on strike immediately reacting to an event without breaking the contract I should be pleased to know. It cannot be done. One is bringing into the centre of industrial relations the threat of the law and the law court. This will be held over workers time and again. Many people inexperienced in industry, perhaps not having the benefit of being in a union for many years, will be bamboozled——
§ Mr. Scott rose——
§ Mr. Orme
—and what the Bill sets out to do—namely, a reduction in trade unionists—will in some cases be achieved.
I want to go to the Donovan Report. The Solicitor-General quoted paragraphs 800 and 801 and said that the majority view of Donovan was that there should be some alteration in Section 3 of the 1906 Act.
Paragraph 799 states:The problem can be envisaged, as arising, for example, in a case where an effort is being made to organise employees who are not members of a trade union. If the effort is on 1722 behalf of a trade union already on the new register, the benefit of section 3 will apply.It then states that a small amendment to the 1906 Act would cover this situation. The Solicitor-General quoted Donovan to support Clauses 85, 86 and 87. But Donovan never envisaged this type of legislation. It is entirely wrong for the Solicitor-General first to reject Donovan and then to bring it in just when it suits his case. He brought it into this situation, but it does not deal with Clause 85.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman must allow me to put him right on this. The sentence that he quoted makes it clear that where, in this case, organisation of employees is undertaken on behalf of a trade union already on the new register, the benefit of Section 3 will apply. This could be made clear by a suitable addition. It provides that, for the union already on the register, it shall be made clear that Section 3 applies to it. That is what we are doing in Clause 85. The next two paragraphs deal with the alternative point, namely, that an unregistered organisation does not have and should not have the immunities of Section 3. They are the two sides of the same coin, the contrast between the registered and the unregistered.
§ Mr. Orme
I do not accept all of the Donovan decisions, because I am on record as saying that Donovan is not a bible, but it is in favour of free collective bargaining. But we all know that there are contradictions within Donovan. In any event, what Donovan does not say is that it should be written in the form in which the Solicitor-General has it in Clauses 85, 86 and 87. This is crucial. The hon. and learned Gentleman is using Donovan in a situation which I am sure the Commission would not accept.
I was dealing with the difficulties in which shop stewards will have to work. This matter was considered in the House in 1944, and a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of those debates is at this moment in the possession of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). In that debate, they were discussing strike regulation 1AA. A speech was made by the late Aneurin Bevan, nearly every word of which would be germane to this debate. He dealt with the mining industry, with which he was conversant, and even talked 1723 about the word "inducement", which is central to this Clause.
He went on to ask about the position of a steward of the A.E.U., as it was then—it is now the A.U.E.W., but its rule-book has not changed—and pointed out that he could be induced to contravene his own trade union rules. Regulation 1AA was looked on as restrictive legislation, brought in in wartime conditions. It was opposed in the House and, of the very small number of hon. Members who voted against it, one was my hon. Friend the Member for Barking, with several other prominent hon. Members. It is to their credit that they did. If anyone has the right to speak against legislation like this now, it must be my hon. Friend and those who opposed it then.
The Solicitor-General mentioned non-registered trade unions. He knows that the trade union movement has already taken some distinct decisions over this My own union, the A.U.E.W., was instructed by a unanimous delegate conference decision of 65 delegates to oppose this and not to register. The same may apply to the T. & G.W.U.
The T.U.C. is to strongly recommend unions not to register. If this happens, and my union does not register, it will be completely caught as an unregistered union. Shop stewards will be entirely vulnerable to the implications of the Clauses dealing with this matter—Clauses 85, 86 and 87. If the Solicitor-General forces the Clause through in its present state he will be heading for a confrontation with the major trade unions, which have been trying to uphold agreements. This has been the case in the engineering industry, where they have been trying to renegotiate the York Memorandum.
Industrial relations are improving, unions are modernising and are taking action which they have been told is necessary. In the face of this, the hon. and learned Gentleman is throwing down the gauntlet. My union, which represents 1,300,000 people, will have its very survival threatened if it does not register under the Bill. This part of the Measure is drafted in such a way that it attempts to capture the unregistered as well as the registered trade union.
1724 Part V is appropriately headed "Other unfair industrial practices"—as if we do not have enough of them already—and Clauses 85 to 87 are at the heart of this penal legislation and are aimed at the trade union movement. How hon. Gentlemen opposite can imagine that this will improve industrial relations I do not know. Indeed, a distinguished lawyer on the benches opposite, commenting on the question of inducement, urged the Solicitor-General to withdraw Clause 85 completely. Unfortunately, the vast majority of hon. Gentlemen opposite do not appreciate the magnitude of the decisions that will be taken under this part of the Bill.
The Solicitor-General owes it to the Committee to explain precisely how these new policing provisions will operate and we have a duty to explain these provisions clearly to the unions. There is nothing in the Bill more pernicious than Clauses 85 to 87 and I hope that the Government will have second thoughts on the whole issue.
§ Mr. Gower
I had not intended to take part in this discussion until I heard the remarks of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). I appreciate his natural determination to put his views forward clearly and fearlessly, but I suggest that he has been led into a degree of exaggeration by suggesting that this legislation represents a landslide towards the employers. To use those terms in this context is to be unrealistic.
The inference of his remarks—and the same can be said of the comments of the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell)—is that the scales have been unfairly weighted in favour of the employers. Whatever may have happened in our industrial history, that has not been the case in recent years. Indeed, in their dealings with firms and industries in their constituencies, hon. Members will have been made aware of the anxiety of managements to avoid industrial trouble. That has been their main ambition. They have not been able to afford industrial troubles. Managements have had such a difficult job in other directions that industrial trouble has been the last thing they wanted.
In recent years, one has had evidence not of the scales being unfairly weighted 1725 against employees but of managements being most anxious that the scales should not be tilted too far in the other direction. This has been the problem, and I am sure that it has been voiced to many hon. Members on both sides.
The hon. Member for Salford, West said that the change would reduce work people to second-class status. What an exaggeration. How can he sustain such an assertion? There is nothing in the Bill to justify it for a moment.
§ Mr. Gower
It is to assist in the development of better relations and to assist the avoidance of unnecessary disputes. The hon. Member for Salford. West and his hon. Friends have referred to the undesirability of any threat from the law courts—those were his words. Why should people regard legislation as a threat from the law courts? Is anyone minded to enter into a commercial relationship deterred from so doing by the knowledge that, if he contravenes some commercial law, he may have to appear in the courts? Of course not. Why should it be different in industrial relations?
I have a great respect for the point of view of the hon. Member for Salford, West, and I hope that he has the same for mine. I put it to him that, whatever may be our differences on these questions, Great Britain Limited can no longer afford the luxury of unnecessary strikes. Great Britain Limited can no longer afford the luxury of stoppages and lockouts not based on real needs or real injustices impinging upon the right of individuals, and far too many in recent years have been of that nature.
We have often read of agreements achieved after long periods of negotiation between both sides of industry, in some cases with reports of statements by the trade union negotiator that the agreement which he has just concluded has been the best he has ever settled, yet within a matter of weeks or months such agreements have unhappily been thwarted by the failure of individuals to abide by them. This is the problem which we face.
It is a tragedy that so many hon. Members opposite are looking backwards into history, not forwards. They are 1726 looking back on grievances, some of them real, some of them not so real, some of them imaginary, of years gone by. We should be looking forward. Hon. Members opposite are haunted by the past, but we cannot afford in this country to be haunted by the past.
We on this side—I hope that I speak for all my hon. Friends—are just as firmly attached to the ideal that an employee should have the right to strike. It is embodied in the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?".] It has been recited so many times that hon. Members must know that it is there. There is provision that nothing shall be done to deprive a person of that right or oblige him to take certain action.
The hon. Member for Salford, West said that trade unionists will not see their natural rights eroded. If the Bill were a threat to what I conceive to be their real, basic rights to withhold their labour, I am sure that I speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) and all my hon. Friends when I say that we would be fighting alongside hon. Members opposite to preserve those rights. We should be as strongly asserting those rights as hon. Members opposite. We depart from them only in our view of the chaos that has occurred.
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) spoke with great fierceness and robustness, but I thought that the noise he made was perhaps intended to conceal the emptiness of his matter. He talked an awful lot of rubbish. I did not think that his hon. Friends looked very enthusiastic when he appealed to them to say that they would come out on the side of the workers if they thought that anything was being 1727 done to infringe the workers' rights. They did not look as if they would, somehow.
The hon. Gentleman said that trade union hon. Members on this side are always looking to the past. But it is very useful to look to the past to judge the character of the legislation being presented by a Conservative Government. It is not in the nature of the Conservative Party, or a Conservative Government, to bring forward legislation designed to help the organised workers. It is just not their job; it is not what they are here for. After all, we know that the Conservative Party exists, as always used to be said, as the executive committee of big business, and it still does.
§ Mr. Driberg
Yes, hon. Members opposite get all their Election funds from big business firms, whether or not the shareholders always approve. But that is their function, their raison d'être. If this were a Socialist country, which it will be some day, the Conservative Party would simply wither away—and good riddance.
Let us look back a little to the past. Perhaps it is a melancholy statement, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) remarked, I happen to be one of the very few survivors in the House of a number of hon. Members who voted against that strike Regulation 1AA in April, 1944, introduced by the wartime Coalition Government. A number of us who felt deeply on the matter, as my hon. Friends feel about this Bill, took part in a debate led by Aneurin Bevan and voted against the Government at the end of it. We were greatly reviled by some people for doing so, but I think that it was very fortunate that we did in the light of what followed, to which I shall come shortly.
The debates on the Bill give me a feeling that I have been here before. It is extraordinary how the arguments and even the phrases repeat each other. The word chiefly used then was not so much "inducement" as "incitement". That was the wicked thing—incitement to strike.
There had been some rather far-reaching strikes in the Yorkshire and other coalfields, and therefore, before the Regu- 1728 lation was suddenly sprung on Parliament without any warning, there was a campaign of calumny against the miners. The Press was fed with all sorts of statements by the Government, behind the scenes—it is known as "guidance"—to inflame public opinion against the miners, who were said to be guilty of unpatriotic conduct. The miners in Yorkshire and elsewhere had brothers and sons fighting in the Army and of course they were not guilty of unpatriotic conduct at all; but they were determined to preserve their rights, not only for themselves but for their brothers and sons to come back to eventually from the war.
The similarities between that debate and our discussion today are quite extraordinary. As Aneurin Bevan said at one point,The language, or its content, remains the same; the individuals differ.He was referring to yet another occasion in the First World war when similar suggestions were made, at the instigation of the same lot of people, though the individuals differed.
I will not weary the House by digging up too much of this old debate, but I think that it is relevant because what was said then shows how easily matters can flare up suddenly and how a small dispute can start on the spur of the moment. It also shows how utterly remote all the legalistic talk that we have heard about contracts is from what actually happens on the shop floor.
In his speech, Aneurin Bevan said:Take the position of two men going to a factory. They arrive at the factory gates and the foreman says that the rate on the job has altered. Perhaps there is a reduction of 2d. a piece, or 3d. an hour. The employer is all right because he has not locked them out. All he says is, 'Take it or leave it.' In the definition under this Regulation, that is not a lockout. … But if one man says to the other, 'Let us go home,' …he will have incited a strike under the penal Clauses. Today it is referred to as inducement, but it is exactly the same.
§ Mr. Driberg
That is a simple trick. The hon. Gentleman is trying to catch me out. The Minister of Labour in the Coalition Government, as is well known, was 1729 Ernest Bevin—[Interruption.] So what? To some extent, he was captured by the majority of his colleagues in that wartime Cabinet.
§ Mr. Driberg
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) means the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter).
The Temporary Chairman
Order. An hon. Member should be referred to only in the usual way.
While I am on my feet, may I ask the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) to return as soon as he can to the Question, That Clause 85 stand part of the Bill?
§ Mr. Driberg
I do not think, Mr. Godman Irvine, that you can have heard me correct my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I said that I thought that he should have referred to the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter).
The Temporary Chairman
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I can deal only with that which I hear in this part of the Chamber.
§ Mr. Driberg
I know that the acoustics are precarious. In any case, all that digression was the fault of the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott). I hope that he will not interrupt me again. He has made his point and collected a few chortles from his hon. Friends as a result.
I was in the middle of quoting a few sentences from the speech of Aneurin Bevan. Perhaps I might conclude them, because I think that they are highly relevant to Clause 85. They are exactly similar to what will happen if this Bill is put into effect. Personally, I think that it will be completely futile, because the workers will not have it.
Aneurin Bevan went on:Suppose the man strides across the shop floor, and says to one of the shop stewards, 'Look here, he has altered the rate and has not told me about it. Let us have a meeting.' If those shop stewards are not incorporated under the rules of the union, they are not persons authorised to call a meeting. If they meet in a corner of that shop and decide to strike, or if anybody at that meeting says, 'Let us go home; do not have it,' they are all liable to imprisonment, or a fine, or both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1944; Vol. 399, c. 1068–9.]1730 That is not exactly the same, but very similar to what this Government are trying to do. As has often been said, history repeats itself, but not verbatim.
One tries never to interfere in what are purely industrial disputes in one's own constituency. Obviously it is not the job of a Member of Parliament to do so. Normally, the unions handle everything. But if we are asked to intervene in any way, by the unions or by a group of our constituents working in a factory, if we are asked to make some point in the House of Commons, it is clearly our duty to do so.
The Bill has tremendously wide implications not only industrially but politically. Certainly it concerns us: we are devoting a great deal of time to it, quite properly, and we should be devoting a great deal more but for the guillotine. So I for one feel that if a number of my constituents—many of whom, incidentally, are on strike at the moment—were engaged in a strike and had convinced me that their cause was just if called upon to do so I should certainly go out, not to incite or induce a strike, but to tell them that I and my hon. Friends were on their side: and I should not care a damn whether it was an official or an unofficial strike.
Mr. Ted Fletcher
Clause 85 is perhaps the most important in this thoroughly reactionary Bill, dealing as it does with the central theme of unofficial strikes and the punishment of those who might try to induce their colleagues and workmates to take unofficial action.
We had unofficial strikes before the Bill was thought about and we shall have them when the Bill is passed. The Bill does nothing to frighten or intimidate the trade union movement into observing the law. The trade union movement in this country has been built up by defying the law. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were deported to Australia for defying the law; the dockers of 1885 defied the law; the 1926 General Strike was an illegal strike, according to Lord Simon; the Kent miners engaged in an unofficial and illegal strike. The whole history of the trade union movement is that its members have disregarded an unfair law, and I warn the Government that if the 1731 Clause is passed it will be disregarded by the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
My hon. Friend omitted to mention the fact that during the period of the Geddes Axe, which he will remember, even the judges threatened to go on strike, but they did not have to do so, because their wage demands were met, but they will be the people who will be judging in these matters.
I thank my hon. Friend for that information. If every section of the working class got the same increases as judges, 62 per cent. over four years, we should not have the present industrial unrest. Unfortunately, that is not the case and these are the people who have had a substantial increase and who will try working-class people.
The Clause deals with unofficial strikes. There is a proposition which the Government have not grasped. Not all issues which arise on the factory floor can be solved immediately, but some must be solved immediately. They cannot be solved only if the two sides are parties to a procedure agreement and a contract. The men want immediate action. For example, if work people on a cold February morning such as we had today go into a factory which is so cold that they are unable to work, if the heating system has broken down and the factory is freezing, and they say, "It is impossible to work and we are going home", the employer may say, "You are parties to a contract and you must go through the procedure agreement". But if they go through the procedure agreement the flowers will "bloom in the spring, tra-la" before they get an answer to their application. It may be 80 degrees in the shade in July before there is an answer. So immediately they say, "Irrespective of the procedure agreement, we cannot work. It is too cold and we are going home". They are unofficial strikers. They are in breach of an agreement and they can be punished under the Bill.
I give another example of what has happened in my area in the North-East. A few months ago 3,000 factory girls employed at West Hartlepool went on unofficial strike because the management decided to put a table outside the ladies' toilet as, they said, too much time was being wasted in the toilet. Every girl 1732 had to give her check number and name, and the time when she entered and the time when she left the toilet were put on a list. The girls said, "This is an indignity and we are not standing for it", and 3,000 of them walked out. They did not consult the union or take the matter through procedure. They said, "We shall not go back until the table is removed". As a result, some statistician in the Department noted down that another 3,000 days had been lost through an unofficial strike.
This is what happens when there is a spontaneous outburst—a sort of spontaneous combustion—and the management outrage the feelings of workers, who take immediate action, and who will take action whether or not the Bill is passed. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite seem to disregard the fact that incidents of this sort happen.
We are not talking with tiny, arid, sterile legal minds about nice tidy packages of what should happen. We are talking about miners working at a two-foot face in two feet of water; of construction workers working 100 feet up a tower block on a February morning; of shipyard workers who have to chisel ice off the plates before they can weld them; of factory workers putting up with an incessant din and the monotony of factory and foundry life; of textile workers who go deaf by the age of retirement because of the noise. We have experienced this sort of thing, and yet we cannot induce you to believe that in this situation problems arise——
I am sorry, Mr. Godman Irvine.
Problems arise between employers and employees which must have an immediate solution. I speak as a former trade union official. I should like my union members to observe agreements which I have made. But I am human enough to recognise that that is not always possible and that situations arise in which workers say, "We know that you signed an agreement to go through a certain procedure, but this proposal is so intolerable that we must take action, and we are taking action". When we as union 1733 officials investigate matters, in the majority of cases we say, "Your action is quite justified. Your strike will be made official and you will get strike pay".
It is no good referring to 95 per cent. of unofficial strikes because more than half of them are made official before they end and, according to the Donovan Report, unofficial strikes last on average only one and a half days. However, the 5 per cent. which are official last three weeks.
§ Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in most of what he said and I am certain that most of my hon. Friends would agree that anyone who put a table outside the ladies' loo in the way that he has described deserves all that he gets. I am certain that that sort of problem could be solved quickly by someone in senior management. How long did that strike last? If it were more than five minutes, I can only say that the management got what it deserved.
It lasted a few hours. Under the Bill the employer is not prosecuted for this intolerable action, but 3,000 girls are at risk under the Bill. Who is to decide who will be prosecuted? This is what makes such nonsense of the legislation.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Surely the whole of what the hon. Gentleman has been saying is based on a false premise? No employer will sue for compensation in the situation he has outlined, the sort of situation when the employer is largely responsible for the trouble. As the hon. Gentleman made clear, this is something about which unions can say that they entirely agree that the unofficial strikers have a sound case. In such cases the employer will not sue for compensation.
I am very interested to hear that. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the employer will not prosecute unofficial strikers, all well and good, but he is encouraging unofficial strikers to disregard the Bill. I am sure that that is not his intention, but that is what is being said—"Carry on with the unofficial strike because the employer will not prosecute".
There are other penalties for those who induce others to strike. Supposing that those girls who came out on strike 1734 had issued a leaflet to other factories saying that if such intolerable action were taken in their own factories they should walk out, too. If such a leaflet had been issued they would be guilty under the Bill—as would the man who published the leaflet, in my opinion—of inducing others to break their contract. This shows what a nonsense the Clause is.
Then it might get to the industrial courts. I am sure that the judges would not consider the matter in this light. They would not ask: "Is it intolerable that employers should time people when they go to the toilet?" Would they not say to themselves, "No one times a judge when he goes to the toilet." Judges have to consider weighty things. Judges may spend a lot of time in the smallest room in the house, contemplating a case. They are not asked whether they would resent it, if they were timed; all they have to do is to interpret the law, and they would say that the unofficial strikers were in breach of contract and had broken the law.
This is the absurd situation in which we shall find ourselves. This Clause is a nonsense which the trade union movement will ignore. The T.U.C. yeterday strongly advised affiliated unions not to register under the Clause. We shall see a tremendous campaign of non-registration within the trade union movement. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are bringing the law into disrepute with such Clauses as this. As a consequence the trade union movement will campaign against it once this Bill become law.
I warn hon. Gentlemen opposite that a general strike in this country is nearer than some people think. We are incensed over this type of legislation which tries to tidy things up and make into a nice, rigid, legal framework something so complex as industrial relations. We have spent our lives in industry and we know the problems there. We know that it is mainly a problem of communications and human understanding.
In the last analysis the problem can be solved only by reasonable men on the trade union side and the employers' side discussing their difficulties and arriving at a mutual agreement. That is the way to solve industrial disputes. We cannot bring the whole majesty of the law into 1735 this situation and set up rules and regulations—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.