§ Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
We regard Clause 124 as being of considerable importance. I will not say that it is the heart of the Bill because that has been said many times before about other Clauses. I oppose the Motion that this Clause should stand 666 part of the Bill, and in doing so it is necessary to consider it in association with Clauses 125 and 126, although I shall deal primarily with Clause 124.
This Clause raises the whole question of the so-called cooling-off period—a period which can be operated under the proposals in the Bill for up to 60 days. The Clause goes much further than strikes and deals with other forms of industrial action. The so-called cooling-off period could be used to deal with a strike, a work-to-rule, an overtime ban, a go-slow or any other form of industrial action known of at present.
We have frequently pointed out that the Bill is modelled very much on the United States Taft-Hartley Act. Indeed, many parts of the Bill are a direct import from the U.S. However, this part of the 667 Bill goes further than that because it gives direct powers to the secretary of State which the American President does not have.
Section 206 of the Taft-Hartley Act enables the U.S. President in certain circumstances to appoint a board of inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding a strike. That board must report to him within an agreed period. Its report must be made public, and under Section 207 of the Act the board may summon witnesses, examine documents and investigate in the most detailed way the circtunstances of the dispute before there is any decision on the part of the President about making an order for a cooling-off period. Only after receiving that report may he direct the Attorney-General to petition for an injunction and impose a 60-day cooling-off period.
Under this Bill the Secretary of State can decide, when it appears to him to be necessary, to make an application to the industrial court for an order. In other words, we are giving greater powers to the Secretary of State than the people of America are prepared to give to their President for the imposition of a cooling-off period. Nor is there any suggestion in this Measure that there should be a board of inquiry first.
I have no doubt that in discussing this matter our attention will once again be drawn to the document "In Place of Strife". [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I would be surprised if hon. Gentlemen opposite did not do that, having no real case of their own. In that document my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) put forward the concept of the status quo; that an employer should keep to the prevailing conditions of employment. Nothing like that is suggested in this Measure.
Under our policy, if a strike arose because of a change made by an employer he could be obliged to return to the status quo. Many industrial disputes could be solved if the first step was a return to the status quo. Proper discussions could then take place. It is when an employer arbitrarily takes a decision to move away from the existing conditions and tries to impose new conditions that disputes frequently break out.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
The hon. Gentleman has just said that if the parties would 668 go back to the status quo, in many cases a solution could be found to the strike. What about the postmen at present? If they had returned to the situation where arbitration was agreed and if they had accepted it, there would have been a solution. The hon. Gentleman puts forward a proposition which in that instance does not, has not and is not working because the union will not conform.
§ Mr. Heffer
I have often heard hon. Members say that they regret having given way. I have never yet said it myself, but on this occasion I regret that I gave way because the hon. Gentleman's point added absolutely nothing and made no contribution to the debate. We are not discussing the exact conditions of the postmen's dispute. I am pointing out that many disputes would be easier to settle if the status quo situation remained.
The words of Section 208 of the Taft-Hartley Act are very similar to those in the Bill. Section 208(a) states:Upon receiving a report from a board of inquiry the President may direct the Attorney General to petition any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties to enjoin such strike or lock-out or the continuing thereof, and if the court finds that such threatened or actual strike or lock-out (i) affects an entire industry or a substantial part thereof engaged in trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or with foreign nations, or engaged in the production of goods for commerce; and (ii) if permitted to occur or to continue, will imperil the national health or safety, it shall have jurisdiction to enjoin any such strike or lock-out, or the continuing thereof, and to make such other orders as may be appropriate.The language used in our laws has been mentioned in the debate. It seems that the language used in the United States laws is not much better from the point of view of the understanding of the ordinary worker. Lawyers in every country suffer from the same problem in drafting documents. If those words are contrasted with the words in Clause 124(2)(a) and (b), whilst they are not exactly the same, there is an immense similarity. It is clear that hon. Gentlemen opposite have to a large extent lifted them. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) is nodding in agreement. That is interesting. I understand that he is a leading member of the Industrial Committee, which obviously had something to do with the drafting of the Bill. The words are lifted right out. 669 These proposals go beyond that part of the Act. I quote a very interesting statement from Mr. George Meeney, the National President of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.:Under Taft-Hartley, as under the proposed British legislation, the government's assertion that a strike creates or threatens a national emergency is supposedly subject to judicial review, but no court has ever been willing to override the judgment of the government on that. Thus in practice under Taft-Hartley a 'national emergency' is any labor dispute that the government decides to so label. While the U.S. government has been fairly restrained in invoking the National Emergency provisions … the definition of national emergency contemplated for the proposed British legislation is much, much broader than that in Taft-Hartley. Thus the British legislation would apply to disputes which 'would deprive the community of the essentials of life or seriously endanger the national health, security or economy'. That would encompass any very large strike, such as the current General Motors strike, whereas Taft-Hartley may not be invoked simply because of the size of the strike.8.45 p.m.
That is important. It must be said again and again that the Bill goes much further than the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act: yet the American unions have consistently fought the Taft-Hartley Act and have suffered as a result of its existence.
Precisely because it is a direct import from the United States, the effects that the Taft-Hartley Act has had in America must be examined. I quote the headlines of an article by Stephen Fay in the Sunday Times of 26th January, 1969:Seven strike threats plus seven cooling-offs equal seven strikes.And 13 ballots equal 13 strikes.Stephen Fay said something else which is well worth quoting. He had discussed the situation with one of the leaders of the dockers' union on the East Coast of the United States. This is what Gleason—the dockers' leader—said:'Taft-Hartley is a nuisance'. It clearly does not deter the dockers. It is not that Gleason is bent on the destruction of American capitalism. This is one of the most militant unions in the United States', Gleason says. 'and it is one of the most patriotic in the country, too. I have been to Vietnam four times to help them get the stuff off the boats'. But Taft-Hartley does seem to have fouled up negotiating practice in the docks. 'The trouble is that the employers never make their final offer before the contract ends because they know the Government will send us back to work for 80 days', says Gleason.670 So there we have it—13 ballots equals 13 strikes; seven strike threats, plus seven cooling-off periods, equal seven strikes.
I call in aid the Royal Commission, because I am sure we shall hear much of this. Paragraphs 423–25 refer. In paragraph 425 the Commission, after having examined the proposals for cooling off, said this:On the whole therefore we do not think that the introduction of a procedure such as is proposed by the Society of Conservative Lawyers"—that was the proposal for the 60-day cooling-off period—would be beneficial. We think it preferable that the Government's present freedom of action should be preserved, and we do not think that it has been shown that its power needs to be increased.All the evidence—whether it is the evidence of the experience in the United States or the evidence of the Royal Commission, which seriously studied the question—proves conclusively that the proposals in the Bill are unnecessary and will not aid industrial relations.
These proposals may increase bitterness and result in strikes of longer duration than is necessary. During the 60-day cooling-off period both sides may build up their resources for the time when the cooling-off period ends. That has been the experience in the United States, and it could well happen here. The proposal gives far too much power to the Secretary of State. It is directed wholly against unions, with no attempt to influence employers.
The hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) said that he wanted the control of picketing to go much further than merely preventing the picketing of peoples' homes. In the United States of America similar voices are being raised. One is the voice of Senator Fannin, a Republican from Arizona, who said in January of this year thatWhen an injunction has been applied to a union on supposed grounds of a threatened national emergency strike, this Bill will make the injunction permanent until after an agreement has been reached, rather than the 80-day period now in law.So we start with a 60-day cooling-off period. That does not prevent strikes. Hon. Members opposite would then propose a permanent injunction. Basically, 671 that would mean the end of the right to strike.
The next step would be open and direct Fascism. The argument has been advanced that things would be very much easier with this sort of legislation. Things are easy in Spain; the workers cannot take action. It is easy to argue that case; but it means the end of democratic rights for trade unions.
§ Mr. McNamara
My hon. Friend has said that workers in Spain are not allowed to strike; but in both Spain and Poland they have done so, in defiance of the law, thereby bringing it into complete disrepute.
I will not give way. The hon. Member for Basingstoke will have an opportunity of debating this matter. I have spent long enough explaining my opposition to the Clause.
Because this part of the Bill is a fundamental attack on the trade union movement, because we believe that it is totally unnecessary, and will not solve disputes, and because the important thing is to get the conciliation machinery into operation in these situations rather than introduce Measures of this kind, we ask the Committee to reject the Clause and the whole of this part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) that this is a very important Clause. It introduces something new into our law. It is important that it should be justifiable, clear and workable. I agree that the concept is taken from the cooling-off period specified in the Taft-Hartley legislation. I stress the word "concept", because there is a lot of difference in the detail. Shortly I shall respectfully submit that the hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that the powers given to the Secretary of State under the Bill are greater than the political powers given in America. I think that he has misunderstood it. At all events, there is another view.
672 I shall not spend time comparing what is proposed here with "In Place of Strife", and neither shall I spend time referring to what the Royal Commission said about it, although I had the honour to form the society of Conservative lawyers which was referred to in the quotation which the hon. Gentleman made from the Donovan Report. But I am glad to have a chance to speak on the Clause because, although I acknowledge that hon. Members opposite have much more knowledge of certain aspects of the matter, my interest in it has been no less great and no less sincere over many years.
Last year, having talked a lot with other lawyers about Taft-Hartley over the years, I thought that it would not be a bad thing to go and see it in operation on the ground. I concede that I am only a "three-week" expert, a rather limited kind of expert, but I did meet people like Tom Harris of the A.F. of L.-C.I.O. who has worked with the Taft-Hartley Act for a very long time, and who has such a reputation in the United States, as well as meeting people like the Regional Director of the Labour Relations Board in Brooklyn who has had such great experience of implementing Taft-Hartley, and many others.
In that way, one gains a rather better slant on the American law—I put it no higher than that—than one does merely from reading, hearing about it and discussing it.
§ Mr. Heffer
I spent two full months, long before I came to the House, studying the whole trade union movement and American trade union law in the United States.
§ Mr. Percival
I hope that the hon. Gentleman did not think that I meant to imply anything adverse to him, for I meant no such thing. I was merely saying that I had a little experience and that, although I could not claim a lot of knowledge, I felt that I was entitled at least to claim some. [Interruption.] I said that hon. Members opposite have much more knowledge of other aspects of the subject than I have. I speak merely as a lawyer who has been closely interested in the legal side of the matter, who does not believe that the law can solve industrial relations problems but who hopes that it might provide means to assist those 673 who are actively engaged in resolving differences, and one who has a little, albeit only a little, first-hand experience of the Taft-Hartley legislation.
The hon. Gentleman overstates the case when he says that the American trade unions have suffered from the Taft-Hartley Act. I dare say that they have in some ways, but I am sure that he will be the first to agree that there are differing views on the other side of the Atlantic about who benefits under Taft-Hartley. There are some who think that it is meant entirely for the benefit of unions, and there are some unions who think that it is certainly not. I do not believe that one can postulate either of those views. In some respects, it is very helpful to unions, and in other ways it is not.
What we should learn from the United States is that this particular procedure has, on the whole, worked. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that it has been used only about 27 times in 25 years—or 25 times in 27 years; I am not sure which. I say here and now that I expect and hope to hear from Ministers that it is the Government's intention that this procedure should be used very rarely, and only in the quite exceptional case.
The one lesson to be learned from the United States is that, if it were to be used frequently, it might soon lose its effectiveness. It should be available only in most extreme circumstances when the national interest is at stake. I for one am very glad that the conditions upon which it may be prayed in aid are drawn so very tightly in the Bill.
I was told that in the United States they regarded that as very important. One example was an airline strike. The Secretary of Labour at the time said that his immediate reaction was that it was a dispute on such a scale that it must be affecting the national interest and that therefore the cooling-off period should be employed. But, realising how important it was that it should be used only very rarely, he reconsidered the matter and said that while it was an enormous inconvenience to have all the airlines out on strike it was not necessarily prejudicial o the national interest in the short run. So the United States Government gave effect to the principle that the power should be used only in the most extreme cases.
674 [Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]
Where the hon. Gentleman may be wrong is in his assumption that great powers are given to the Secretary of State. The only reason I find the provisions acceptable is that I believe that the powers of the Secretary of State have been severely curbed. If I thought that the provisions gave him great powers, I should oppose them.
We must look at Clauses 124 and 125 together. I hope that I shall be in order in referring briefly to Clause 125, because the point I want to make is so closely bound up with what is in it. It is true that the Secretary of State does not have to appoint a board of inquiry, as the United States President does. He has only to satisfy himself that the conditions postulated in Clause 124 are satisfied, and does not have to go outside his own Department at that stage. But he has first to satisfy himself that all the conditions of the Clause are met. All that the Clause says is that if he has satisfied himself to that extent he may apply to the court, but nothing happens then unless he satisfies the court that he was right in thinking that those conditions were met.
Here I speak with 20 years' experience of the courts, and from the heart. It is wrong to think that we shall see here anything like what happened in the United States, if the quotation which the hon. Gentleman read is true. If my memory is correct, it said that the courts had never dared disagree with the President's conclusion that the national interest was at stake. I do not wish to comment on that, though from the little I know of the American courts I doubt whether that proposition is justified. But, be that as it may, I am certain as I can be of anything that it does not apply to this country. I am certain that the Industrial Relations Court will carry on the traditions of the other courts that it stands there to protect everyone else against the State, and that when the State applies for an order it has if anything an even more difficult job to satisfy the court of the conditions which must obtain before the court will make an order. 675 The procedure in the Clauses is very desirable. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, it is designed to protect the persons against whom the order may eventually be made, and it provides the best protection that can be provided for them. Apart from the Secretary of State's deliberations, which will be in private, everything must happen in public. The application must be in public, the Secretary of State must satisfy the court on facts stated in public, facts which will be presented by witnesses who will be cross-examined, no doubt very rigorously if the ground is shaky, and the contrary case can be put by anyone who is interested to put it in public. Then, finally, the decision and the reasons for it will be given in public.
§ Mr. Percival
The hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) does himself and the Committee less than justice by silly remarks like that. No one ever employs a lawyer unless he wants his services. In the N.I.R.C., legal aid will be available. We were told that yesterday but I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here then. We have not seen much of him in the last few days.
§ Mr. Percival
No, I am not giving way.
The case may be presented to the court by any person any party desires to present it—perhaps it will be a trade union official or an individual. If the party wishes to employ a lawyer, he may present the case. The whole of the facts are to be examined in public, and the onus will be on the Secretary of State to satisfy the court that all of the conditions postulated by the Statute have been satisfied. It is only in these circumstances that an order can be made. I believe that the conditions have been drawn very tightly. If any hon. Member opposite were able to demonstrate that they are not drawn tightly but are drawn loosely, I should be the first to express the wish that such a defect should be remedied, because 1 believe that, if a procedure like this is to be useful, notwithstanding the remarks of my right hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Percival
What lawyers hope for is that these processes will be useful for the purpose for which they are intended. I believe that the process we are introducing into our law can be useful, providing two conditions are satisfied—first, that the conditions under which the powers may be exercised are tightly drawn, and, secondly, that the procedure is used but rarely.
I commend the Clause to the Committee because I believe that the first requirement, which is the only one which can be dealt with in the Bill, is satisfied by the Clause as drafted, and I hope and expect that the other prerequisite for the success of this procedure—that it be used rarely—is the Government's intention.
Mr. Ted Fletcher
I take up two points made by the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival). He said that in the United States the authorities were reluctant to use injunctions for the 90-day cooling-off period. He put forward this proposition in support of an argument that we should adopt a similar system.
The reluctance in the United States is because the system has failed there. After the longshoremen's strike, a directive was issued to the Civil Service to this effect, "Do not get an injunction to restrain unions from striking for 90 days" because in the longshoremen's case a comparatively small dispute during the waiting period was blown up into a major national strike. As a consequence of its own experience, the United States is holding back from imposing upon the union a statutory period of 90 days before it takes strike action. So it has nothing at all to do with the reluctance of the Administration to invoke that clause. It is a fact of history which has taught it that the law does not work. It is getting its fingers burned, and that is the reason why it is holding back.
So do not let us take as an example what is happening in America, because if we have similar legislation we shall find out from our own experience gained in the hard way, that the law will not work and that a cooling-off period would, in fact, be a hotting-up period and that many strikes would be more difficult to settle rather than easier to settle. 677 The next point which the hon. and learned Gentleman made was that if the Secretary of State made application to the court, the court would have to be satisfied that it was a legitimate application. Surely, the courts are the creature of the Government. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] They are being created—
Just a moment. I will give way presently. They will be created by this Bill. The courts will be created in accordance with the Clauses of the Bill. They are creatures of this Government, and the creatures of the Secretary of State, and so it is inconceivable that if he takes a case to the court and the case is in accordance with the Bill which we are about to pass, the court will not grant the Secretary of State's request.
§ Mr. Percival
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, but I say to him, with all humility, that if he really believes that the courts of this country are the creatures of anybody, he has got it wrong. Somebody has got to set them up, but I hope that he will realise that and in the rest of his speech—if the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) will keep quiet for a moment as others have kept quiet and listened to him—really will accept from those of us who deal with the courts every day that the courts of this country are wholly independent and not creatures of anybody, and will not be in acting under this Bill.
The hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that I did not refer to the courts of this country. I referred to the courts which are being created by the Bill, and they have their powers set out in the various Clauses of the Bill. As a consequence. the courts are the creatures of the Secretary of State.
To make an elaborate argument that the court will have to be satisfied that the Secretary of State is correct, and so on, is beside the point, because if the Secretary of State is working in accordance with the Bill which we are about to pass he will obviously bring himself within the jurisdiction of the court. The courts are mere creatures of the Secretary of State. So this is no safeguard. The courts are puppets of this Administration, and puppets of the Tory Government.
§ Mr. Gower
We, of course, understand what the hon. Member means when he says that they are created by this legislation, but they will be a branch, a part, of our judicature and will be manned by, among others, persons who are independent of the Executive Government and who are part of the judiciary and are High Court judges. It has been the glory of the democratic tradition of this country for many generations that our judges, constantly over history, have faced and opposed actions of the Executive Government at various times.
I know that judges are held in very high regard by the legal profession, but they are not necessarily so regarded by the public of this country. Judges have been matters for derision throughout the ages. From Chaucer through Shakespeare to Gilbert and Sullivan we have made fun of our judges. The only respect now shown to them is by the legal profession. The fact that we appoint judges to the Industrial Relations Court, which is the equivalent of the High Court, does not mean that the trade unions will necessarily hold them in higher reverence. Their duties are specifically set out in the Bill, and if the Secretary of State acts in accordance with the Bill he will he using his creatures to see that his will is carried forward.
Clause 124(3) refers to a strike or to irregular industrial action short of a strike. On previous occasions we have asked the Government what is "action short of a strike". It is vital in this context, because the cooling-off period could be used in aid of action short of a strike. Is working to rule notion short of a strike? Is this the sort of action where the Government could impose a cooling-off period?
When a trade unionist works to rule, he works to the employer's rule—the rules that are given to him by the employer when he obtains employment. For example, a driver in a haulage firm might be told to examine tyre pressures and the water level in the radiator and see that the battery is topped up. In the interests of production he gives a cursory glance to these things and carries on with the job. If he obeyed the rules of his employer and worked to rule he could spend a good deal of time each day doing 679 these things, with a consequent loss of production. Is this action short of a strike? Is it action that should be penalised? Would the court say that there should be a 60-day cooling-off period for this action because it is used in furtherance of an industrial dispute?
The 60-day cooling-off period is quite irrelevant to solving industrial disputes, and may even prolong them. Small sections of workers who have a genuine grievance will be able to utilise the 60 days to mobilise support amongst their colleagues in other branches, and at the end of the cooling-off period we may be faced with bigger industrial problems than if initially the unions and employers had sat round a table and tried to solve their problems.
Clauses 124, 125 and 126 are particularly important. They incorporate systems which exist in the United States and which have failed to such an extent that the Americans are having second thoughts about them. If the Government studied the American situation, they might come to the same conclusions as are being reached over there and think twice before trying to implement the Clauses.
§ Mr. Tom King
I certainly follow the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) when he says that this Measure is no magic solution to the problems and that there will be many occasions when it could aggravate the situation. There will be little disagreement on this point between those of us with common industrial experience.
I do not follow him on his comments on the judiciary, which I thought were most regrettable and, out of kindness, best ignored. On reflection, the hon. Gentleman may feel that it would have been better not said.
There is a danger that this Clause may achieve a significance out of proportion to its effectiveness in relation to the number of times it is likely to be used. We are asked why we are bringing forward this provision since it is never likely to be used, but there is conflicting evidence on this matter.
Hon. Members have mentioned the American experience and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) 680 mentioned the article instancing seven ballots, seven pauses and seven strikes. Furthermore, when one looks at paragraph 421 of Donovan one sees that the evidence is conflicting. In 24 cases in which injunctions were granted, a standstill period was successfully imposed. We do not know what the situation would be when tightly-drawn Clauses are imposed in regard to action which is likely to begravely injurious to the national economy, to imperil national security or to create a serious risk of public disorder. —We cannot ignore the evidence that in 16 instances mentioned by Donovan stoppages were virtually avoided by the use of the Taft-Hartley procedure.
The hon. Member for Walton pointed to the extension of the Taft-Hartley procedure to matters which are likelyto endanger the lives of a substantial number of persons, or expose a substantial number of persons to serious risk of disease or personal injury.That is the standard in the Taft-Hartley procedure, but surely in the national interest that could be omitted in view of the interdependence of one set of workers with another set of workers.
Therefore, I support this provision on the strict condition that it is used sparingly. Attention has been drawn to the American experience and on some occasions we are told that we cannot avoid the consequences of the present situation in the United States. I do not accept that view. In this country we have our own ways of handling matters and we have our own ways of interpreting the law as applied to differing conditions and to different people.
§ Mr. Heffer
I endorse the hon. Gentleman's last point that up to now we have had our own ways of settling problems. Why, therefore, to solve our problems do we now have to borrow from the United States something that is suspect?
§ Mr. King
The hon. Gentleman intervenes as though the rest of the world remains static. We are living in a dynamic society. In 1906 we did not, for example, have 25 per cent. American investment in this country. [Laughter.] I do not introduce this matter in any way to suggest that, because we have American investment, we should adopt American labour laws. Hon. Members should not read into my words more than 681 I meant. Perhaps it was an unfortunate example to give. What I meant by giving that example was simply that it is a changing situation. We did not have the same level of American capital investment in 1906 or in 1875.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in condemning the laughter with which this very serious matter about United States investment in this country was greeted by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but he was trying to throw a lifeline which was not really needed. In view of what has been said in the correspondence columns of The Times in the last two days, and in spite of the attempt of the hon. Member for Walton to dismiss the matter as though it was past history, we recognise that we live in an international world of industry. The situation is not static, and it is no good arguing that it is. The proposed procedure will be effective only if it is not regarded as the general rule and only if it is used extremely sparingly and strictly in accordance with Clause 124(1)(c). This is the nub of the Clause, and it providesthat having regard to all the circumstances of the industrial dispute,use of the Billwould be conducive to a settlement … by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration if the industrial action were discontinued or deferred".It does not mean that that will automatically follow or that we shall get into the sort of situation which has arisen in the United States where the 60-day period is automatically discounted and it becomes part of the common negotiating procedure. This is a fall-back procedure to be employed only as categorised in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2).
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, North-West)
The hon. Gentleman has said on several occasions that the Bill should be used only extremely sparingly. Can he point to anything in the Clause that indicates that it must be used only sparingly and which will stop the Secretary of State, who is given complete discretion, from applying to the court as and when he sees fit?
§ Mr. King
I have already answered that point in my opening remarks. This procedure will be used in only a limited number of cases.
The hon. Member for Darlington made the point, which I accept, that in many instances the situation could positively be aggravated by employing this procedure. There are many other cases in which it will be effective. Whether the procedure is used sparingly will be determined by whether the Secretary of State correctly interprets subsection (1)(c). There will be very few cases in which it could be fairly said that it was conducive to a settlement.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
I have been trying to contemplate situations in which the Clause would be appropriate. The Prime Minister used to say that the number of working days lost was tragic and that strikes were prevalent and, therefore, legislation would be introduced to deal with the situation.
We are now discussing a situation in which the Secretary of State is not confronted with a strike. According to the words in the Clause, he may be confronted with something short of a strike, yet that which is short of a strike must also be… gravely injurious to the national economy".I have had a lot of experience in this House, in Ministerial positions and in industry. I cannot conceive of a situation which is even remotely comparable with that kind of wording.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
The Clause refers to conditions… likely to be gravely injurious to the national economy".If a strike has not taken place but is definitely threatened and is likely to be gravely injurious, I think that the Secretary of State of the day has every right to act within the provisions of the Clause.
§ Mr. Lee
The hon. Gentleman is talking about strikes which are definitely threatened. I do not read anything like that in the Clause.
In a number of places in the Clause we see references to matters which have not reached the stage of strike action. In subsection (3)(a) we see a reference to… irregular industrial action short of a strike".683 How does any Minister begin to construe irregular industrial action short of a strike as being a situation which is gravely injurious to the national economy?
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth, Lang-stone)
Perhaps I can help the right hon. Gentleman with a valid example. If those in charge of the national defence radar computers were to work to rule on those computers, in certain circumstances they could so prejudice our defence that large numbers of people would find their lives at risk. But that is not a strike.
§ Mr. Lee
Here we come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher). Apparently, if there is a threat to work to rule it is now to be decided that the Secretary of State is justified in using this Clause. However, if men are working to rule, they are working to conditions and regulations laid down by their employer.
§ Mr. Tom King
I should have picked up the hon. Member for Darlington on this point. I do not think that anyone seriously accepts that working to rule means working to rules approved by an employer.
§ Mr. Lee
If the hon. Gentleman cares to put that proposition down as an Amendment, I will consider it. At the moment, hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to be violently disagreeing with each other, and I do not wish to see supporters of the Bill getting themselves into that sort of state after I have been on my feet for only about 30 seconds.
§ Mr. Lee
I do not want to continue with this point for too long. I have tried to glean some information from the combined wisdom of hon. Gentlemen opposite by giving way to them, but I still want to know how the Secretary of State proposes to work the Clause.
684 I have quoted the words of the Clause without importing any language of my own. If the Secretary of State were suddenly confronted by one of his civil servants who said, "It really should appear necessary to you that, in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute, certain things are likely to happen," what action would he take? Would he first ask himself whether the issue was gravely injurious to the national economy? He would have to satisfy himself that it was before he could act on this Clause. If he does not act, having satisfied himself that it is, or is likely to be, gravely injurious to the national economy, then he is falling down on his duty. But the criterion for that is not necessarily a strike. It is that in some way or another some action short of a strike is likely.
In the first instance, how does the Secretary of State find this out? I do not want to go over some of the other Clauses, but my hon. Friend has shown with great clarity that this must be a "snoopers' charter" if it is to work at all. How does the solemn occupant of No. 8 St. James's Square find out that some action short of a strike is to take place in Trafford Park, Manchester, or some other industrial area, and then make up his mind whether it is likely to become gravely injurious to the national economy? I suggest that the Clause alone, no matter how much we may disagree on other issues, shows that this legislation is utterly unworkable.
The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) disagreed about working to rule. Let me give other illustrations. I can think of huge factories in which I had responsibilities, in which—during the highest crisis imaginable, a war period—one had to keep the balance of production pretty uniform. In other words, parts produced in one part of the factory had to synchronise with those produced in other parts.
Suppose that in one part of the factory a large number of men with a grievance decided to come off the piecework system and go on day work. There is nothing whatever in their terms of employment to stop them doing that, but anyone with any knowledge of the work floor in a great factory knows that if that went on for a few days the whole balance of production would be distorted in the factory. 685 Is this conceived as something gravely injurious to the national economy? These men, let us remember, are working entirely within their rights. In this case, it would be not even a question of working to rule but one of working to the conditions on which they were employed.
With some experience as a Minister, I would not know how to work this Clause, and I would challenge any right hon. Gentleman within sound of my voice who has been in a Ministerial chair to tell me how he would work it out.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
The right hon. Gentleman should be fairly fair on this. Besides dealing with this Clause, perhaps I can make a passing reference to the next one. This is subject to the N.I.R.C. being satisfied that the evidence is there, on sufficient grounds, under these premises which are enumerated in Clause 124. So any precipitate action by a Secretary of State, if it took place in hypothetical circumstances, would be checked by the Industrial Court, which, of course, will be independent of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Lee
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Of course one can say that that is the follow-up of Clause 124. But we are not arguing about what happens after the Secretary of State has made his reference; we are arguing about the conditions under which the right hon. Gentleman would first satisfy himself that he should make a reference to the Court. This is the issue of Clause 124. I repeat that I would not know how to make such a reference. I would not know the conditions.
Let us go back to 1926, which is the only case that I can think of. I should not have thought that, even then, the Clause was any answer to the problem, but I could understand those who support it saying that it was operative under those conditions. Short of that, I can remember no dispute in my adult life to which this Clause would be at all appropriate.
It seems that even the supporters of this Bill know that it is making a complete nonsense of all the propaganda by which the country was conditioned to accept this legislation. It has nothing whatever to do with the number of unofficial strikes or the number of days lost in unofficial strikes. It does not even 686 require strike action. It is something which to me—and I have some industrial knowledge—is complete gobbledegook, and it will make no sense at all under any circumstances.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
I listened with incredulity to the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee). If what he says is true—and for the purposes of the argument I am prepared to accept his judgment—then he cannot conceive of irregular industrial action short of a strike which would be gravely injurious to the national interest or security. If there is no such circumstance there would be no prospect of the Minister managing to get a court order and, if he could not get a court order, then the fears of the right hon. Gentleman would be of no consequence.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I cannot give way. I know that the hon. Member is trying to get into the debate and I do not want to deprive him of the opportunity.
During his speech the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made four points which I noted carefully. He drew attention to the fact that there is a considerable similarity between the proposals of my right hon. Friend in this Bill and the cooling-off period which operates in the United States. He said that the use of the cooling-off period in the United States was subject to judicial restraint, by which I take it he means an application to the court. He said that never has the United States Government been rebuffed in its application to the court and that therefore the judiciary of the United States was a rubber stamp for the President.
§ Mr. Heffer
We must get this on the record. I was quoting from George Meany and Mr. Meany said:… the Government's assertion that a strike creates or threatens a national emergency is supposedly subject to judicial review but no court"—and he is talking about the United States—has ever been willing to override the judgment of the Government on that. Thus in practice under Taft-Hartley a 'national emergency' is any labour dispute that the Government decides to so label
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for restating the point. I was doing my best to put it as fairly as I could. The Government of the United States takes great care and much advice before making an application to the court, because it does not wish to be shown to have made an application and to have been rebuffed. It is not the case that the court is in the pocket of the U.S. Government—very much the reverse. The U.S. Government does not dare move unless it is sure that it has a watertight case and can convince an independent court that it has such a case.
The hon. Gentleman went on to quote from Stephen Fay's article and referred to the fact that there is a ballot for the continuation of a strike. He said that many times, in the U.S., I think seven times in the case of the longshoremen, the ballot has gone for the continuation of the strike. This is true. But let us be clear that this is one of the major differences between the U.S. legislation and that proposed here. Under U.S. legislation the employer's last offer has to be put to a ballot. That ballot comes, I think, after 50 days of the cooling-off period have run.
In this country the union says to its members, "Please vote for a continuation of the strike because we have not succeeded in negotiating a satisfactory settlement. If you vote for a continuation of the strike and for confidence in your union leaders, we will be able to secure a better offer from the employers than we have obtained so far".
Naturally, whenever these circumstances arise, the union will get its vote of confidence and there will be a concurrence with the union leadership not to accept the employer's last offer. For this reason the Government are right not to replica in our legislation this fault that exists in the American legislation.
By this state of affairs arising at this point of the cooling-off period, one is bound to get a heating up of the atmosphere, precisely when a settlement might be reached. Because of this fault in the American legislation, it is not being included in this legislation.
The hon. Member for Walton went on to refer to Mr. Gleason saying that em- 688 ployers never made the best offer. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman discussed this matter with Mr. Gleason when he was in the United States. I did.
§ Mr. Heffer
I did not discuss this question with Mr. Gleason, though I discussed it with Mr. Reuther, Harry Bridges and every top trade union official with whom I could get in touch. Unfortunately, I was not in contact with Mr. Gleason.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I was more fortunate than the hon. Gentleman. I was able to speak to Mr. Gleason about this. I can, therefore, give the Committee the evidence necessary to support my argument, which is simply that Mr. Gleason takes the view that it has become a crutch—he used the word—in that employers do not make their last offer because in the case of, for example, longshoremen's disputes, it has become a habit of the U.S. Government to apply for a cooling-off period.
It has been used frequently and regularly in this one industry, as a result of which both sides in the industry take into their calculations when negotiating the probability that a cooling-off period will be slapped on should a dispute break out. It is to be hoped that the same sort of thing will not occur here. If it did, similar difficulties would arise.
In all other disputes, however—that is, in all disputes apart from those affecting the longshoremen—it has been used rarely and the parties do not know whether or not it will be used. In those circumstances, it cannot and does not enter into their calculations. It does not, therefore, have the disadvantages to which attention has been drawn.
The hon. Member for Walton then said that workers would still go on strike. However, U.S. experience is that on every occasion when an 80-day cooling-off period has been applied, it has been observed. Indeed, while I was in America talking to Mr. Gleason there was in operation a cooling-off period applying to his union because of a longshoremen's dispute.
Despite the rhetoric which hon. Gentlemen opposite have used, workers in the U.S. have carried out these court orders when they have been applied. In many cases, they have found them to be substantially to their advantage. I have no reason to suppose that the workers in 689 this country will take a different attitude. In two-thirds of the cases in which 80-day cooling-off orders have been applied in the U.S., the disputes have been resolved before the end of the cooling-off period.
One turns to the very important question of the circumstances in which it would be used in this country. It appears from the Clause that the Minister must satisfy an independent Industrial Court of two things. First, he must satisfy it that it is conducive to the settlement of a dispute that there should be a 60-day cooling off period and that it will assist in securing resolution of the dispute. Second, he must show that the strike has caused or would cause grave injury to the national economy, imperil national security, endanger a substantial number of lives or expose a substantial number of persons to disease or personal injury.
If the Secretary of State can satisfy the court that those things are at risk if the strike continues, will hon. Members opposite really tramp through the Lobbies tonight to suggest, in circumstances where in other countries two-thirds of the disputes have been resolved by an 80-day cooling-off period, that there should not here be applied a cooling-off period in cases in which there would be grave injury to the national economy, with lives and national security endangered? Do they consider that it is very important for a trade union to be allowed to continue with a strike—a strike which, if there were a cooling-off period, it could renew afterwards—regardless of the national economy, lives or security? If they do, they have reduced to a sorry state their assessment of what is in the interests of either their members or the nation, which hon. Members presumably seek to support.
§ Mr. Greville Janner
One strange feature of the debate, and especially of the speech of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell), is that it has been so often without regard to the wording of the Clauses which we are considering. The problem was well expressed by the hon. Member who said that it was honed so much that this process would be used sparingly because in his view the success of these Clauses would depend on their sparing use.
On the proper interpretation of Clause 124 read together with Clause 125, a Vol. 812 690 Secretary of State has a complete and absolute discretion when he brings this matter to the court. I most respectfully disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee). A Secretary of State who is anxious to use this procedure will be able to do so in connection with almost any dispute, actual or potential, as he sees fit. Whereas a Secretary of State has a complete discretion, the court does not have a complete discretion. The court is given only a discretion to consider the matter on the basis stated, and then it "shall" make an order. It is not given a discretion. The judge is not given the right to decide whether or not he thinks it proper or right to make an order. That is a right reserved for the Secretary of State, who is given far more power under these Clauses than any court.
Let us look at the wording of the Clause in that light:Where it appears to the Secretary of State"—this gives the Secretary of State a discretion in the matter; it is what appears to him—that, in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute, industrial action, consisting of a strike, any irregular industrial action short of a strike, or a lock-out, has begun or is likely to begin —".We have to take a trip into this new legal jungle and look back at Clause 6, which states what an irregular industrial action short of a strike is. It is a fairly broad definition.
A Secretary of State would be in a fair position to say that a strike is likely to begin when a group of union members or a group of workers in a plant have decided that they are not satisfied with the ordinary procedures and they start consulting. Is there then likely to be some irregular industrial action? The Secretary of State will decide whether he thinks there is.
The Secretary of State then has to look at Clause 124(2). Would this begravely injurious to the national economy"?It has been said that in this modern economy, in which each plant is dependent on all the others, each union on the other, and each industry on the other, it only takes a breakdown in a small 691 plant to stop a great number of other plants, and that could be, in the eyes of the Secretary of Stateinjurious to the national economy".Therefore, this could be applied easily and properly, within the meaning of the Clause, to almost any industrial situation which is likely to give rise to a strike. It is felt, rightly or wrongly, that any strike which is likely to give rise to cost inflation, as it described, isinjurious to the national economy".I am not considering at present whether this is right or wrong; I am considering only what power appears to be granted to any Secretary of State under the Clause.
Does the hon. Gentleman notice the use of adjectives—for example, "gravely injurious" and "serious risk"? These are not ordinary terms.
§ Mr. Janner
I have had to argue before now whether a situation or an injury was grave, whether bodily harm was actual or grievous. These are lawyers' words subject to interpretation by the courts, and it is a question of opinion as to what is or is not serious. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because the court has to decide not beyond reasonable doubt that there is a grave risk but only that there are sufficient grounds for believing that there is such a risk. That is very different.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
Surely the crucial words are "is fulfilled", which imply some meaningfulness.
§ Mr. Janner
I do not understand that intervention. The courts will have to interpret what Parliament means. God help the judges! It has been argued that the courts are creatures of Parliament. Let us use the word "creation". A new court is to be created by Parliament. It is a creation of Parliament. The judges are given the powers that we see fit to give them. Their power is not to make law but only to interpret the law as it is set forth in these Clauses.
So the Secretary of State must decide whether there are grounds for believing, first, that some "irregular industrial 692 action" is likely to begin which—this is the second limb—may begravely injurious to the national economyand, third,that, having regard to all the circumstances of the industrial dispute, it would be conducive to a settlement of it by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration if the industrial action were discontinued or deferred".I believe that that subsection need not be there at all, because every Tory Secretary of State believes that it is more conducive to a settlement if people are not out on strike. I do not believe that the subsection is likely to present any grave problem of conscience to hon. Members opposite.
Therefore, the Secretary of State must decide three matters. If these appear to him to be correct, once again he is given a second discretion. He—the Executive, the Government of the day, the representative of the Government—may. if he sees fit, in his absolute discretion, bring the matter before the Court.
The Court is given its terms of reference in Clause 125, which says:Where an application is made to the Industrial Court under section 124 of this Act, the Court, subject to its being satisfied on the evidence that there are sufficient grounds for believing that the condition specified in subsection (2) of that section is fulfilled, shall make an order".There are two points to note about that. The Court does not have to be satisfied that the situation is gravely injurious to the national economy, as hon. Members opposite have argued; it has only to consider whether there are sufficient grounds for believing that that is the case.
It is one of the lowest standards of proof that I know of anywhere in English law. In civil law it is necessary to prove matters on the balance of probabilities, and in criminal law it is necessary to prove them beyond reasonable doubt. This Bill spills over into criminal law, because if the worst comes to the worst it will result in criminal sanctions being imposed upon persons who do not accept it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am sorry, but if things get bad enough and the law is flouted and fines are imposed and people will not pay those fines they will be in contempt. The court will not stand by and allow its orders to be flouted. No court can do that. That would bring the law into disrepute. 693 All sorts of attacks have been made upon my honourable profession, from both sides of the Committee. It is about time some lawyer on the Opposition benches expressed his fears, as one who may be instructed to argue a case concerning this Bill. I fear that the Court will not have the powers that it should have to deal with the discretion placed in the hands of the Secretary of State. If the court makes an order and that order is flouted it will impose a sanction—otherwise the law will fall into disrepute.
The court has power to impose heavy fines, but I cannot imagine a union paying those enormous fines. That being so, it is not possible to say, "Do not bother"; the court will then be faced with a clear case of contempt, and either the court will be brought into contempt because it does not impose sanctions or orders will be made which people do not respect.
The essence of good law is that people should respect it. We found with certain road traffic Acts how difficult it was to make laws that the public did not feel to be to their benefit and with which they were not prepared to comply. The police were placed in a difficult position.
It is wrong to say that the judges are puppets. They do their best to apply the law, within the limitations of the powers given them by this House. The trouble with the Bill is that it does not give the court enough power, whereas it gives too much power to the Secretary of State. We are not enabling the court to curb those powers. I am not in favour of setting up a new court, and I am not in favour of these Clauses, but once we give the Secretary of State these powers it is wrong to argue that we need not worry about them because the great independent courts can curb the exercise of those powers.
The court has to decide whether there are sufficient grounds for believing that the conditions specified are fulfilled. That is a very simple and low burden of proof. The Clause goes on to provide not that the court can make an order; not that the judge has a discretion if he sees fit to make an order; not that he, like the Secretary of State, "may" take a stand; but that the court "shall" make an order under the Clause. It is 694 absolutely mandatory for the court to make an order. To my mind, if the court has to make a mandatory order under a Clause such as this it will cause such incredible ill-feeling that it is likely to bring the law into contempt. The Government ought, primarily for that reason, to consider most carefully the wording of these provisions if they are determined to bring in the procedure at all.
Happily—I am sure that this is agreed by hon. Members on both sides who come from my city—industrial relations in Leicester are, on the whole, good. In my view, however, legislation of this sort is likely to make those industrial relations deteriorate. It is likely to bring the courts into disrepute, and it will do infinite harm to the cause which the Government say they are pursuing.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South-West)
The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there are happy industrial relations in the city in which our respective constituencies lie. He has referred to the powers of the Secretary of State. Would he prefer the far greater powers which have been given to the Secretary of State under "In Place of Strife" to those proposed in the Bill?
§ Mr. Janner
Under the guillotine procedure we are discussing at the moment Clause 124, which I regard as very bad for the country.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Hon. Members are making rather heavy weather of this Clause. In the middle of his speech, when he was going through the Bill and arguing against it, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Greville Janner) was helpful in putting the most convincing case in favour of the Clause.
I believe that Part VIII, the emergency procedures, is one of the Parts of the Bill most welcomed and looked forward to by people in the country as a whole. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) has left, because I usually admire him and I wanted to refer to some of the difficulties which he foresaw. There is a postal workers' strike in progress now, we recently had a dispute in 695 the electricity supply industry, and previously there was the municipal workers' dispute. I should expect the Secretary of State to have applied this procedure to the first two, though I rather doubt that he would have done the same for the municipal workers' dispute. That is a matter of opinion. In the public mind, the Government seem to have too little power to deal with these disputes which can lead to national emergency.
The Opposition say that this procedure will not work. Very well. After the Government, any Government, have tried it a couple of times and found it not successful, they will probably not use it again. It is a reserve power which they will have available to them and which I believe will be effective.
Now, a question for my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. Clause 124(3)(a) reads, in part:Any application made by the Secretary of State … shall specify the persons (whether they are organisations of workers, officials of such organisations or other persons) appearing to the Secretary of State to be responsible"—and so on.
The same kind of consideration comes in Clause 125(4). I assume that those named organisations and persons will be included in the original order. If the injunction not to induce or to continue a dispute rests upon those named persons, what will happen if persons other than those named suddenly appear on the scene during the period of 60 days? Will they be covered by the original order, or will there have to be a further application to the court?
One of the extra advantages of Clause 124 is that it gives the period of 60 days within which a ballot under Clauses 127, 128 and 129 could take place. In the context of the strike we are having and the strikes we have had recently, that might produce a very helpful and sensible result reflecting the views of the members of the unions and other workers in the industries concerned.
§ [Sir ALFRED BROUGHTON in the Chair]
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North- 696 West (Mr. Greville Janner) for making such a clear speech about the wording of the Clauses. When we look at Clause 124, and particularly subsection (1)(c), we may hope that a wise Secretary of State will never call upon the provision. Subsection (1)(c) says that if… having regard to all the circumstances of the industrial dispute …it appears to the Secretary of State that… it would be conducive to a settlement of it by negotiation …certain things follow. A wise Secretary of State would at once see that this emergency procedure is doomed to failure, and, therefore, would not use it.
My hon. Friend made a substantial point about the important subsection (2), pointing out that paragraphs (a) and (b) state very clearly two groups of grounds upon which the necessary emergency state is to be founded. Paragraph (a) contains the wordsgravely injurious to the national economy".I do not dispute for the purposes of this argument that if there is an industrial dispute imperilling the national security, creating serious risk of public disorder, endangering the lives of a substantial number of persons, or exposing a substantial number of persons to serious risk of disease or personal injury, these are serious situations that a Secretary of State conscientiously doing his duty is bound to take into account to the maximum of his powers. But I doubt whether the same standards apply to the wordsgravely injurious to the national economy".I disagree with the view of my hon. Friend that those are words of legal art. It seems to me that they are political words, and if they are, I doubt whether they should be construed by any court. This is a serious doubt. What have the Government Front Bench to say in reply to this criticism? How is it possible for the court to determine what is or is notgravely injurious to the national economy"?How will it be guided? If it is just left with those words, how can it properly direct itself to the question? The inquiry under Lord Wilberforce makes perfectly clear what kind of difficulties can be envisaged if those words remain and no guidance over and above them is given to the court as to how it is to proceed. 697 10.15 p.m.
Attention has rightly been drawn to the words of Clause 125, which have to be read with Clause 124 because they give it effect. The important words have been stressed by my hon. Friend. They state that… the Court, subject to its being satisfied on the evidence that there are sufficient grounds for believing that the condition specified in subsection (2) of that section"—Clause 124—is fulfilled, shall make an order under this section.Not only is the standard of proof suspect but the risk is that, once the Clause is enacted, we shall be presented with a state of affairs analogous to that which used to operate in the production of documents.
The famous case here was the Cammell-Laird case in 1942. The conditions for the production of documents have been watered down somewhat, and a reasonable rule now operates in the courts, I understand. But in those days, and to some extent still, production of documents could be objected to by the Crown, notwithstanding that the Crown was not even a party. The appropriate Minister could certify that it would be injurious to the public interest to produce the documents or to disclose their contents.
I hope that the Government will deal with this second criticism. Are we to find that the court is to be satisfied by evidence as flimsy as that the grounds are sufficient to believe that the condition specified in subsection (2) of Clause 124 is fulfilled? Are we to have Ministerial certificates or affidavits produced to the court stating that a situation would be gravely injurious to the national economy? If that is how it is to be done, then again this smacks of a political decision and not something worthy of a judicial decision. It seems to me that the court is to be used as part of the Executive and not as a judicial body. That is the most fundamental criticism that one can make of a proposal to set up a new court.
My third point may not be as important as the first two points, but it is nevertheless important consequentially. Subsection (5) of Clause 125 states that an order may be made—it does not have Vol. 812 698 to be made—specifying certain persons who are… to take such steps (whether by way of withdrawing any instructions issued by that person or those persons) … for the purpose of securing that the industrial action to which the application for the order related is discontinued or … deferred …".There cannot be the slightest doubt that we are face to face again with the ultimate sanction of the Bill—committal to prison for contempt of court. It has been said already, and no one can doubt it. The finger is clearly pointed at individuals who have been named by the Secretary of State in the original application. Other names can be added—and that is the answer to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), who posed this question.
The important point is that people are named from the outset. Certain individuals immediately know that they are at peril. Hon. Members opposite may think this right, but we do not. What is important to notice is that the ultimate sanction is clear—committal for contempt if they are outside the four corners of the order. Such orders will be sweeping.
What will happen? Let us face the realities. The situation will be that of emergency, in which there is a disagreement, no doubt, about how far it is an emergency. On the one side, people will say that there are no gravely injurious consequences from this threatened industrial strike—that it is not even a threatened strike but an industrial dispute which may never result in a strike. On the other side, the Secretary of State will be saying that the situation is one of grave national peril.
There is bound to be that kind of disagreement, and in that kind of situation feelings will run high, and they will run high amongst many people, and those people can be swept up into the network of Clause 125(5) and they will be swept to one destination, which has already been mentioned, and that destination will be prison. It is all very well to have in prisons for civil reasons persons as though in criminal cases, but have the Government considered that under that Clause they will need new prisons, hundreds of new civil prisons? 699 If this is not that sort of situation, how are we to deal with the matter? The Government have to face the fact which is clear to us on this side—it certainly seems too clear with me, if not to hon. Members opposite—that the law of contempt will undergo very considerable changes if this Clause goes through. It 700 is no use praying in aid the fact that at the moment the courts rarely use this sanction, because in the future the situation will be transformed.
I ask the Government to consider these three matters seriously. They seem to me important, and I should particularly like the Government's reaction to the first two.
§ Mr. Gower
I was thinking that the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Murray) was speaking with great moderation, and I was rather sorry that he ended in that extravagant manner, calculated to arouse alarm and despondency, when he talked about criminal sanctions, because he knows perfectly well that if he or I went to the tailor and ordered a suit and did not then pay for it but had it on credit there might come a time when he or I would be faced with that sort of criminal sanction over a civil debt.
The hon. and learned Member was spreading alarm and despondency rather as was the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) when he disparaged the position of this new court and described it as a puppet being created by the Secretary of State. I do hope that the hon. Member will regret those remarks on thinking about them, and that he will realise that this legislation will set up a new division of the High Court which will be consistent with the rest of our High Court of Justice which has had such a splendid position of impartiality and, indeed, of interpreting Statutes against the Executive Government of the day on many occasions. If there is any inadequacy in this Bill, if there is something in this Bill which the court will deem should be interpreted against the Government, I am satisfied that the Court will go against the Secretary of State or whomsoever appears on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The hon. Member will recall that following the passage of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act the interpretation placed upon the Act later did not go against the Government but rather perpetuated some things which the Government did not want, and we feel the same about this Clause.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Gentleman and I can discuss that on another occasion. It is rather involved.
I think that this Clause is a valuable and sensible addition to the Bill, and I hope that a majority of people in this Committee will feel it to be so, including hon. Members on the Opposition side. They have asked: Why do we need to include powers of this nature in this Vol. 812 702 Bill? Others have gone further and said: Why do we need the Bill? It arises, of course, from the history of many years. The hon. and learned Member for Leith must be aware that his own party, when in Government, were deeply concerned about this matter, were deeply concerned about the state of industrial relations, were deeply concerned about the ills of the British economy. Otherwise they would not have gone to such great trouble, setting up a Commission, as they did, and then going into the matter and drawing up a whole document including proposals for a cooling-down period.
I respectfully suggest that nothing could be more valuable in certain cases—not in all cases, but in certain cases—than a cooling-down period. This is not designed to prevent a strike permanently. It is designed to lessen the powers of workers to strike: it is designed to give time for cooling off when the attitudes of the parties to the dispute might harden.
We have seen evidence again and again that once a strike has been called and people have ceased working, attitudes harden and people take up positions which make it more difficult for a settlement to be achieved. Is it not conceivable that a cooling-down period of not more than 60 days will in certain circumstances be most valuable?
Sufficient guidelines are set down to achieve the control over the actions of the Secretary of State and of the Executive which is desirable. The Secretary of State has first to satisfy himself of certain premises. This is not an entirely free political choice for him. It is similar to the action of a Minister acting in an appellate jurisdiction in a planning case, where he does not exercise his political function. He would be deciding whether the circumstances would justify him in making application to the court, and the final decision would be for the court.
The requirements set down are fairly high. There must be a serious risk of public disorder, not mere risk. The industrial action must be gravely injurious to the national economy, not merely injurious or likely to be injurious. The industrial action must be likely to imperil national security, endanger the lives of a substantial number of persons or expose 703 a substantial number of persons to serious risk of disease or personal injury. These are fairly high requirements, and any Government would be foolish not to provide in the Bill for a standstill of up to 60 days.
Mr. Ted Fletcher
Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the dustmen's strike would come into that category?
§ Mr. Gower
There will be strikes of all kinds which will come into one or other of the categories, but it will be for the Secretary of State to satisfy himself of certain conditions. Thereafter it will be for the Industrial Court to be satisfied that there are sufficient grounds.
After all that, the maximum effect will be not a limitation of the democratic right of people to take part in an industrial strike or to take preparatory action, but merely an order laying upon them a reasonable duty to forgo their democratic rights for a limited period specified by the court, which at the most could be 60 days. These provisions are sufficiently circumscribed to achieve the result which is required by two or three of my hon. Friends; namely, that the power should not be used too freely.
In that setting this provision can be a valuable and useful addition to the Bill, and in certain circumstances it could prevent some of the abuses which have happened in the past, abuses which have been most exasperating to people of all parties. Not only Conservatives and Liberals but many Labour supporters are deeply anxious about the future welfare of this country, and hope that this Bill will be a great success.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
One of the features of this Bill which has concerned many people in the trade union movement has been the wide definition that is often introduced. This has, naturally, given rise to a number of contributions in which wider claims are made. The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) at one point argued that some 25 per cent. of capital now employed in Britain was American-owned and, by implication, he seemed to be saying that this was a reason for introducing some new legislation that was either copied 704 from or was very close to the Taft-Hartley laws.
I would not attempt to burden the Solicitor-General with the sins of his supporters, but I warn him that at the end of the day it will be his duty to justify the introduction of these provisions. He will be able to do so only by proving to the Committee and to the country that they will lead to better industrial relations in the future. That is what this is all about. He stands or falls on being able to adduce such reasonable evidence.
Many hon. Members have referred to their experience of trade union matters in America, but that does not mean a priori that they have the right to believe that their opinion has more right to be considered than the opinion of hon. Members who have gained their industrial experience in this country. We must look at the facts of the situation and the circumstances in which these provisions are to be introduced, and must seek to show why hon. Members on this side of the Committee are opposed to them.
The Donovan Commission is helpful in this respect. Paragraph 421 says:The record as regards the use of the Taft-Hartley procedure is as follows. In all but one of 24 cases in which injunctions were granted a standstill period was successfully imposed.There is no need to talk about the courts being creatures of the Government and of the President of the United States, but the evidence is clearly that when the President wanted an injunction he got it.
Paragraph 422 says:In the United Kingdom when a major strike occurs or appears imminent the Government has a wide range of action which it can take if it feels it desirable to intervene.The Commission outlines the wide range of action available to the Government.
In paragraph 423 the Commission says:The record under the Taft-Hartley Act in the United States has been worse than the record in our country. We have been singularly free from strikes in recent years which would have come within the scope of a 'Taft-Hartley' kind of procedure.That is clear, straight-forward language produced by a Commission which studied the subject for nearly three years. I see no reason that I or anybody else should seek to substitute ourselves as 705 being necessarily better informed than that Commission. The purpose of a Royal Commission is to carry some element of credibility and acceptability as a body of reasonable and intelligent men who have been given this job by the Government. The Donovan Commission came to this conclusion, and it is a valuable one. I see no reason why it should not be introduced into the record.
If that is so, the burden of proof is again on the shoulders of the Government. Why do they wish to ignore that the record under Taft-Hartley in the United States has been much worse than our own, and why do they want to say that the instruments at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government are insufficient, and that further measures must be introduced; for example, a cooling-off period?
The second point is one which causes many hon. Members on this side of the Committee great concern. It is the loose drafting of the Clause which contains, among others, the phrase "any irregular industrial action"—[Interruption.] I carry the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite when I merely quote a phrase from the Bill. I know that many of them want the widest possible interference with the rights of trade unions to represent the interests of their members. The Solicitor-General admitted today that the Government had been under pressure to introduce far wider and more far-reaching regulations on picketing. He did not want to do that, but he has introduced some part of what was required. In view of that, 1 think that I can safely ignore the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite on this matter. We are dealing with the Government.
The Government have included the phrase "any irregular industrial action". That causes us concern. Like other Clauses which are widely drawn, this introduces an element which will make it very easy for the Secretary of State to make up his mind about when he will invoke these powers. There used to be criticism about a Secretary of State trying to take too much power unto himself. Here is a case in point. As this Clause and the following one are drawn, if the Secretary of State once makes up his mind that a situation with which he is dealing comes under the provisions of 706 Clause 124, the presumption is very strong that the court shall then follow him and agree with his proposition.
I say that the presumption is very strong. I do not say that the courts are automatically obliged to agree with the Secretary of State. We know about the way in which the courts act and about their independence. That is common ground. But if the word "shall" is used in a subsequent Clause, the presumption is that they shall follow the Secretary of State unless there are overwhelming countervailing reasons to prove that the Secretary of State has acted contrary to all that is reasonable.
§ Mr. Percival
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has got rid of the suggestion that the courts are not independent. But he has it wrong when he talks about presumptions. The court has to be "satisfied on the evidence". Evidence has to be presented by the Secretary of State in support of his application. That evidence has to be so good that the judge is able to say at the end of the day that he is satisfied on the evidence. The presumption is the other way round.
§ Mr. Mendelson
There is nothing about that in the Bill. Those are the hon. and learned Gentleman's words.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman must give me a chance to deal with the intervention of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival). Those are the hon. and learned Gentleman's words. I am saying that, because the word "shall" is used in a subsequent Clause, the presumption is that the court shall, having satisfied itself, be under an obligation to do what the Secretary of State is proposing. What does "any irregular industrial action" mean? Where is this extension of the Secretary of State's powers justified? Nowhere.
So the only reason why the Government want this is to reduce the bargaining power of the trade unions during or in the approach to an industrial dispute. Of course this does not cause any alarm and despondency to lion. Members opposite. Many of them have said this many times. They are interested in reducing the bargaining power of the unions. But 707 they do not admit it in these debates. I do not see why they should not. We on this side have always admitted that we want to keep the bargaining power of the unions strong and vigorous and unfettered, because they are the shield of the working people.
I cannot understand hon. Members' reluctance to come clean, since they often represent employers' federations and say that they are keen to see these powers reduced. That is not an insult. This House would have been meaningless in the past without the representation of interests, and I do not see why hon. Members opposite should be offended if I say that that is their interest—[Interruption.] At least I seem to be carrying one charming hon. Member with me on this.
The Solicitor-General also has to prove, in opposition to the view of Donovan, that we would not suffer from the kind of disputes which the Americans have suffered under the Taft-Hartley Act—
§ Mr. Mendelson
No, I will not give way. I had some experience of the kind of intervention which the hon. Gentleman made in my hon. Friend's speech.
The burden of proof here is on the Solicitor-General, if we are to be free of a Taft-Hartley situation. An example of the other powers at the Secretary of State's disposal is the court of inquiry, which has the advantage of great flexibility. It is not a blunt instrument: its function is not to hand down an award. It is not coercive, but points in the direction of the settlement. When a Minister of Labour or Secretary of State for Employment decides to set up a court of inquiry, he is not taking sides.
Peaceful and effective industrial relations are threatened if the side representing the work people suspects that the Secretary of State has moved to one side and is using coercive instruments to weaken the efforts of the unions to represent their members. The instruments which Donovan examined, which have been available in this country for many years, are particularly designed not to create that suspicion—conciliation, courts of inquiry, assessors, tribunals and so on.
When I argued it with him, the Secretary of State himself did not dissent from 708 my general proposition that he should always be in a neutral position. Like the Lord Chancellor, he is in a special position. He could not perform his function properly, if he were seen to be leaning on one side or the other. [Laughter.] I do not know whether the two hon. Gentlemen who are so amused by this have graced our proceedings before. I have not seen them before. They seem to have strayed in from some other room where they usually spend this hour of the day. But those who have been here following the debate will recall that at least on this point the Secretary of State and I agreed.
The right hon. Gentleman must explain why, with these flexible instruments and in the light of what Donovan has said about the American experience with Taft-Hartley and ours without it, he finds it necessary to impose this procedure on our industrial relations.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
The basic case for these proposals is to be found in the analysis made by many people but put most succinctly by Mr. Andrew Shonfield in his addition to the Report of the Donovan Commission. [Interruption.] We will come to the more telling witnesses later. He said:With the growing dependence of people on the reliable performance of services required for tolerable living in crowded urban communities, the employment of collective power of groups of producers to disrupt the lives of people who have no means of helping themselves raises new problems. It is no longer possible to accept the traditional notion of the individual workplace as a separate and largely autonomous estate, where employers and employees are able to conduct their quarrels with little or no regard to the effects of what they do …".That is a situation which has been impressing itself upon the people of this country and upon Governments of all parties, and it is from that kind of reasoning that we go on to consider the proposals before the Committee.
These are proposals designed to meet or avert the possible impact upon the national economy or the national health or safety of a strike or threatened strike or lockout which could be serious or prolonged. The important point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), who has studied the whole of this aspect of our proposals with great care, is that this is designed for exceptional cases 709 which are likely to inflict serious damage far outside the range of the people affected by the initial dispute.
Several hon. Members have raised the point that these provisions are intended to apply to irregular industrial action short of a strike. That is defined in Clause 6. The only point I need make is that irregular industrial action short of a strike which is in breach of contract can, as the Committee and the country knows, be as serious and as damaging as a full-scale strike or lock-out and can call for the application of these remedies. As the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said to my right hon. Friend on Monday, the findings of the Wilberforce Committee about the recent electricity go-slow include this in paragraph 11.9:We reached the conclusion that in many areas what happened was not a 'work to rule' but a breach of rule, that is a breach of the normal arrangements for the employment of the workers.That is a clear and recent illustration of the potentially damaging and serious effects of irregular industrial action short of a strike and amply justifies the inclusion of that idea within these provisions.
Given that this provision is designed to meet that kind of situation, I would address some remarks to hon. Members opposite who suggest that the allocation of political discretion and judicial decision-taking powers is not here correctly worked out. When we look at the provisions of Clause 124(1) the matter which remains exclusively for the Secretary of State to satisfy himself about is that contained in 124(1)(c):that, having regard to all the circumstances of the industrial dispute, it would be conducive to a settlement of it by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration if the industrial action were discontinued or deferred.It is essentially a matter for the expertise of the Secretary of State, who must assess what the prospects are of a further delay in relation to the onset of a strike in his desire to help the parties towards a conciliation. It isin contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute, industrial action, consisting of a strike, any irregular industrial action short of a strike, or a lockout, has begun or is likely to beginthat the Secretary of State must make up his mind and form his first view, but the Industrial Court must be satisfied in accordance with Clause 125(1), 710 and the only area left to his experienced political assessment is the likelihood of a delay contributing to a settlement of the impending dispute. It is in relation to the other matters mentioned in the Clause, where something maybe gravely injurious to the national economy … or … imperial national securitythat he must go before the Industrial Court and satisfy it.
The right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) suggested that he would find it difficult to see how any Secretary of State could ever conclude favourably towards action in relation to Clause 124(1), while the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Greville Janner) said he could hardly see a situation in which a Secretary of State could fail to conclude in favour of action. As in so many matters, the truth lies between these two extreme views; that the Secretary of State could certainly form his view, but that he would then have to satisfy the Industrial Court about it.
Let us consider the rôle which the Industrial Court will play. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Murray) suggested that to invite the court to consider whether action would begravely injurious to the national economy … or … imperil national securitywould be to leave the court with a political and not a legal question to be considered. However, the Committee must remember the kind of tests and questions which the Restrictive Practices Court has been facing and answering in the 15 years since it was established by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). That court has not become, any more than this one will become, a creature of the Government. It will need in approaching these questions, as Clause 125(1) points out to:be satisfied on the evidence that there are sufficient grounds for believing that the condition specified … is fulfilled".The effect of that provision is clear. The Secretary of State, if in his judgment he decides to apply, will have to make out a convincing case before the Industrial Court—which will be as independent as any other court in this country—on the basis of reliable and adequate evidence. 711 Hon. Gentlemen opposite have begun to suggest that this will be thrusting into the hands of the Minister an intolerable discretion, that the matter will be entirely at large, that in any event the situation does not call for this procedure and that the definition of what is a serious or gravely injurious prospect is inadequate.
This compels me to return to the proposals which were made by the last Labour Government. I remind the Committee—and I shall shortly be inviting the help of hon. Gentlemen opposite over this—that one of the immediate steps proposed in the interim Industrial Relations Bill which the Labour Government had decided to bring before the House was the implementation of the conciliation pause, or cooling-off period, of, in that case, 28 rather than 60 days.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am referring to the right hon. Lady's speech the day after her right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had abandoned the incomes policy to introduce a Bill in its place, and on 16th April, 1969, the right hon. Lady spoke ofThe interim Industrial Relations Bill which the Government have decided to bring before the House".One of the matters to be included in that was this:The third immediate step which we need to take is to secure a change in attitudes towards the honouring of collective agreements".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1969; Vol. 781, c. 1181–3.]In that context, hon. Gentlemen opposite were still putting forward the conciliation pause proposal in paragraph 93 of "In Place of Strife". I know not how far the drafting of that interim Bill had proceeded, but it was being pressed forward with great urgency by the Labour Government. Indeed, it was to be introduced, we were told by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in that Session of Parliament. So one imagines that some progress must have been made towards the preparation of that Bill—I know not how much.
I ask the right hon. Lady to help the Committee on this matter. It is being 712 suggested that the powers in Clauses 124 and 125 are unduly discretionary and leave too much in the hands of the Secretary of State, that they define with insufficient clarity the risks in respect of which they have to be exercised and that they are insufficiently controlled by the court which has to be satisfied that the situation exists.
I remind the Committee of the way in which it was put forward by the right hon. Lady in the situation we are now discussing, where this conciliation pause was necessary. The method proposed was to give the Secretary of State a discretionary reserve power to secure a conciliation pause. The power would have been used only if the strike or lock-out continued and the effects were likely to be serious. How tight and precise is that formulation? Is it not ironic to find hon. Members opposite criticising us for precision in drafting when we have spelt out clearly that the court has to be satisfied on the evidence that there are sufficient grounds for believing that the strike or lock-out, as set out in Clause 124(2)—
§ Mr. Heffer
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman please differentiate between a White Paper, which contained proposals for discussion, and a Bill before the Committee, which he wishes to put into the law of this land? I have said before, and I repeat, that it is a mask for the complete bankruptcy of the Government's ideas.
§ The Solicitor-General
The Committee appreciates the extent to which the hon. Gentleman is impelled to rise to his feet whenever one refers back to that proposal. The right hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker), both in contrast to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), voted in favour of "In Place of Strife" as a basis for legislation. The right hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Doncaster were at the Department of Employment and Productivity, as it then was. The right hon. Lady, who was telling the House about the interim Bill to be introduced, may be in a position to tell the Committee exactly how they were going to control a situation the effects of which were likely to be serious if they have improvements to offer in respect of subsection (2). 713 I invite consideration of another aspect. It is suggested that the Secretary of State is being given too wide a discretion. The Committee sees plainly the extent to which a court independent of the executive would have to be satisfied on this matter to which I have referred. Perhaps the Committee can be told whether the discretionary reserve power which the right hon. Lady would have claimed to make an order would or would not have been subject to the approval of any court. The answer is plain. No court would have had the power to consider that. The best to be hoped for would have been that such an order might have been subject to review by the House, by an affirmative or negative Resolution, but not action.
I invite the Committee to reach the conclusion that consideration by a court independent of the Secretary of State whether or not the test had been fulfilled is likely to be a great deal more objective, tight and specific than the consideration which might have been given by hon. Members opposite if they had been invited to go through the Lobbies time after time endorsing orders made by the right hon. Lady under her interim Industrial Relations Bill, in the same way as they were required to do so in respect of orders made under the Prices and Incomes Act. What kind of independent scrutiny or control would that have been compared with that suggested by us?
§ Mr. Harold Walker
The hon. and learned Gentleman has challenged us on this point. Surely there is a fundamental difference between the responsibility to the Committee, and, subsequently, the electorate, of a Minister for what are Governmental decisions for which he is answerable to Parliament and, on the other hand, the proposal which the hon. and learned Gentleman is putting to the Committee which would enable a Minister to shelter behind the decision of a court and thus avoid answering for his actions, evading responsibility on the ground that this was the decision of the court.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
Of course there is a difference. The Minister, proceeding as proposed in "In Place of Strife", would have had to come to the House of Commons and would have called upon 714 her loyal supporters to endorse the Order she was bringing before the House of Commons. That she may or may not have achieved, but that would have been the only hoop through which she would have had to pass.
Under our proposals, the Minister must reach the conclusion that he may prove this to the court. He must go before the court and satisfy the court. He may still be called upon to justify in the House of Commons the wisdom or unwisdom of his decision to apply. Hon. Members can imagine the situation which could arise if the Secretary of State, having decided to apply to the court, found that he was unable to satisfy the court. At least there would have been independent scrutiny challenging him and showing him that he had made a completely wrong judgment. That would be a far more effective discipline and sanction than that which the House of Commons alone could have exercised. That is the strength of our proposal, in contrast to that put forward by the previous Government.
The other criticism which has been made is that these proposals will in some way impair the Secretary of State's freedom of action in this kind of situation. As the Donovan Commission said, there is much to be said for leaving the Secretary of State with a variety of alternative approaches; and nothing in this departs from or in any way erodes the Secretary of State's power to consider the appointment of a court of inquiry, to undertake conciliation, or to undertake any of the other measures which he can currently undertake. What this does is to give him an additional weapon, plus the ballot. It gives the Secretary of State additions to the flexibility of his armoury. It increases the room for manoeuvre. It gives him useful additions or alternatives.
§ The Solicitor-General
Mr. Shonfield proposed a number of additional alternative remedies. His diagnosis was 715 accurate, and it was presumably on the basis of his diagnosis that the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends went further than Donovan in the areas we have just been discussing. We are not frozen to the methods proposed by Donovan.
This is an additional remedy, to which the country is entitled in this exceptional, serious, situation. It is an equally balanced remedy in respect of strikes or lock-outs. The point made by the hon. Member for Walton and which may be made by the right hon. Lady was that at least the conciliation clause provided for the return to the status quo. This is the one distinction which the right hon. Lady drew in a previous debate.
The point to be remembered is that the argument about whether to return to the status quo can give rise to certain strikes when management have made a decision to the advantage of the employees. The kind of strike with which these proposals are likely to be concerned is not likely to be the kind of strike—
§ The Solicitor-General
Exactly. So the distinction becomes plain. I am glad to have that acknowledged. This kind of strike is the serious—quite probably national or very large-scale—strike posing a serious threat, almost certainly founded upon a claim for changes in wages and conditions of employment. It is in that kind of strike where the return to the status quo, as hon Members opposite acknowledge, is not likely to be a relevant question.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
If the hon. and learned Gentleman is intending to continue making this comparison it is important to get the thing right. He will recall that one of the strikes that had a profound impact upon the motor car industry at about the time of "In Place of Strife" was the Girling strike. That strike was concerned not about "who does what" but about the suspension of certain individuals. In that kind of situation the issue was the arbitrary action of the employer, and we would have required the employer to return to the status quo as a basis for a return to work. In that situation—the kind with which the Clause is intended to deal—what would the Solicitor- 716 General require the employer to do? Would he require him to carry on this misdemeanour while telling the boys to go back to work?
§ The Solicitor-General
That is a different kind of strike—as the hon. Member for Walton said. I am not sure about that strike. The scale would have to be examined closely. I cannot say whether the Girling strike would have qualified as one that was gravely injurious to the national economy. It certainly did a great deal of damage, as the hon. Member for Walton knows through his connection with Merseyside.
It is an exceptional case that would require a return to the status quo in that situation. It is probably the other kind of strike with which the Measure proposes to deal. But what we are arguing about is apparently not the admissibility of taking, on behalf of society, powers to stay or postpone the commencement of a strike which can be doing serious damage—
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) is entitled to say that he has been consistent in his opposition to almost anything. I am conducting my discussion with those of his hon. and right hon. Friends who have in the past put forward proposals designed to meet this kind of thing. I suggest that these proposals are fairly balanced and sensibly designed to deal with the kind of strikes that threaten the gravest risk to the economy and the safety and health of this country.
I come now to the other point raised by the hon. Member for Walton. It has been suggested that simply because these proposals are put forward as a result of a study of some comparable proposals that have worked in the United States they are to be condemned. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) advanced arguments to justify these proposals, in this form, being adopted in this country. It has been said more than once from the benches opposite 717 that the North American experience does not justify any kind of consideration being given to the proposals that are working there.
I remind the Committee of the facts: since 1947 there have been 29 cases where a board of inquiry has been appointed. Under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act applications for injunctions have been made in 25 cases. That is about one a year, which indicates how exceptional they are. In each of the 25 cases where injunctions have been granted they have been complied with. During the period when the injunction has been in force a settlement has taken place in 12 out of the 25 cases; a partial settlement has taken place in three out of the 25, and in 10 out of the 25 the settlement took place after the injunction had been discharged.
Those figures are not very different from those in respect of a slightly earlier period. Paragraph 421 of the Donovan Report says:In sixteen cases"—but of 24—a settlement was reached during or shortly after the stand-still period, but in seven cases stoppages did take place or were resumed after it.On either analysis, therefore, on the up-to-date figures or the Donovan figures, it is plain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke said, that in two-thirds of the situations the strike or lockout was postponed, so that it never took place. How anyone can argue that that is a record of failure I fail to follow.
§ The Solicitor-General
The Donovan Report carries on to reach a conclusion which does not at all follow from the facts set out. It is surely plain that if a remedy has been used and has been successful in two cases out of three, it is at least not something to be discarded on the basis of prejudice. It is for that reason that we have considered the same kind of approach to this problem in this country. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport drew attention to the fact that in the longshoremen's dispute the reason why, in that industry, it has not been successful in North America is that it has been over-used. 718 It has become part of the bargaining process. But in the other sectors and other industries where it has been employed in North America it has been a useful and valuable addition to the remedies available in the hands of the Government of the United States. It is upon the same basis that I commend it to this country in the context of this Bill.
This is not a slavish copy or imitation either of the proposals made in "In Place of Strife" designed to the same end, or of the proposals in effect for many years in North America.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I do not want to be discourteous to the hon. and learned Gentleman. He should know that very well. But, on the American experience, would he not agree that it has led to very long strikes, carefully planned to take in the cooling-off period, and that that is one of the reasons why the Donovan Commission came to its conclusions. How can the hon. and learned Gentleman ignore that?
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not ignore it. The difference between the nature and length of American strikes as opposed to our strikes is something that we have commented on in the context of other debates. But it is not attributable to the existence of the 60-day cooling-off period of the Taft-Hartley Act. The Taft-Hartley cooling-off period as I have told the Committee, has achieved success and the avoidance of strikes in two-thirds of the cases.
The fact that American strikes tend to be longer than ours but far less frequent is because there is a record of stability during long-term contracts and the parties prepare for the bargaining situation at the end of the contract. That is certainly a much healthier aspect. But it has nothing whatever to do with these proposals.
§ Mr. Heffer
On the question of the number of disputes settled by the cooling-off period, may I put this point to the hon. and learned Gentleman? A considerable number of these disputes had not reached the stage of becoming actual strikes. Therefore, how can the Solicitor-General say that in this country our normal D.E.P. conciliation machinery 719 could have been used in those circumstances without having to apply for a cooling-off period? This is something that no one will ever know, but we would have used an entirely different kind of machinery. Therefore, the argument that the method to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred has proved successful is quite invalid because we may well have arrived at a successful conclusion without the cooling-off period being used.
§ The Solicitor-General
The comment that I make on that intervention is that I hope the Committee has noticed the extent to which the hon. Member has shifted his ground completely. The case with which he started the debate on this Clause was to the effect that everybody could see that this procedure had not worked in North America. He has now, I understand, suggested that the reason why the procedure has been successful in North America is that the whole of the rest of the system is different there. He cannot have his argument both ways. Does the hon. Gentleman think that conciliation is something known only in St. James's Square in this country? Of course not. [Interruption.] The United States Federal mediation and conciliation service has a long experience and has done a great deal of work in this kind of situation, just as corresponding services have done comparable service in other countries.
What we are arguing about here is whether, when we have mediation, conciliation, courts of inquiry and all the other remedies, it is legitimate and necessary to have this additional remedy. I put it to the Committee that in the conditions facing this country today it is plain beyond argument that there are some strikes and lockouts, some threats of strikes and lockouts, which pose such a grave threat to the economy and the safety of the country that it is not only sensible but vital for these new powers to be given to the Secretary of State, subject to the careful control which is set out in the subsequent Clauses.
The case for that is proved by the experience in North America, by the extent to which the last Government moved in the same direction, and by the extent to which these proposals have long been 720 before the people of this country and were overwhelmingly endorsed at the last General Election.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The Solicitor-General has given a number of general answers to the general questions and criticisms which have been put to him. In the main, he gave patient answers, but I wish that he had a little more patience and allowed perhaps two other hon. Members on this side—my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and myself—who were on their feet, to put one or two more questions to him before he replied to the debate.
I have some specific questions to put. Throughout his speech, the hon. and learned Gentleman related his argument, as did other hon. Members opposite, to the general words,gravely injurious to the national economy, to imperil national security, or to create a serious risk of public disorder"—or to the other general phrases in subsection (2)(b).
The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) claimed that with all the questions facing his constituents on prices, unemployment, commuter travel and the rest, this was the one Clause for which they were clamouring and there would be jubilation after it had been passed. At least, the Solicitor-General confirmed his other remark, that these are reserve powers to be used in only a few cases, or, perhaps, never used at all.
Only one hon. Member opposite gave a concrete example of a situation in which the Secretary of State might use these powers, and he spoke of a work-to-rule in the National Radar Defence Corps. Incidentally, I have never understood why working to rule should be wrong, except that it may indicate that there is something wrong with the rules. Working to rule of itself seems perfectly right in any circumstances, but, at any rate, that was the example which the hon. Gentleman gave.
Will the Solicitor-General give examples—they must be in the Government's mind—of the kind of situation in which they would use these powers? They may wish not to be too specific, but it is not unreasonable to ask that they spell out the 721 circumstances, or give examples of particular circumstances, in which an industrial dispute would be brought within the Clause.
Do they envisage that they would use these powers to refer the Post Office workers' strike to the Industrial Court, or would they decide to wait until the strike had been joined by the telephonists and telegraphists?
Another example: if the National Union of Mineworkers proposed a ballot on a national strike, would that be a situation in which the Government might have to invoke the powers? If only the Yorkshire or South Wales miners talked of coming out on strike, they might not wish to use them. If the electrical workers in the engineering industry talked of a work-to-rule they would not want to use them, but if those workers came out on full official strike they would have to use them.
Conservative hon. Members have made general arguments that could mean almost anything to anyone. Very few people could disagree with the wording of paragraphs (a) and (b), but what do the Government mean by them? Their interpretation may be very different from ours.
If the Solicitor-General could give me some indication of the industrial circumstances in which the powers might be invoked, that would be helpful. It would certainly be interesting.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
I have heard practically all the debate on the Clause, and, unlike some hon. Members, I have listened to much of the debate on the other Clauses. This is the first time I have felt myself drawn into the debate, because it is an interesting and very important subject.
I have been impressed by the style, if not always the content, of the contributions by the Solicitor-General. The content of his speech was singularly weak tonight. I do not feel obliged by anything that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) proposed at any time, or by what was discussed within the Parliamentary Labour Party or with the T.U.C. Governments can be wrong, including Conservative Governments. So that line of argument takes us nowhere, though it might be clever debating and might make an impression on hon. Members opposite, who do not understand 722 some of the problems put forward in "In Place of Strife", to certain parts of which I take strong exception. It is a wee bit pointless if, in a serious discussion on a serious subject that is the best the Government Front Bench can do. I am not concerned with what the Labour Government or individual Labour Members proposed. I am concerned about the effect of this Bill on industrial relations as from now. While the Solicitor-General might think that he is scoring debating points, he is not impressing me with this line of argument.
I recognise, as I am sure every hon. Member does, that there are serious problems when one small group of people can hold the country to ransom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Before hon. Members opposite start applauding, let me expand a little. If it is true that we want to go back to the good old days when, the miners could come out against an individual mineowner with no serious dislocation in the community, fair enough. But we are not going back to those days. Modern developments in industry or society inevitably mean that a few key people in any group of industries have a power held by no group of comparable workers 50 or 100 years ago.
The answer is not to ask: What small group of workers can we try to bring. under legislation to deny them the right that other workers have? This is a problem that we must all face up to. That solution denies the principle that all men are reasonable. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are not".] There are some people in business circles, in owning circles, who have such power that they can, influence the price of many commodities, and the law has to some extent tried to prevent this happening. Power does not lie just in the hands of a small group of unidentified, apparently irresponsible anarchists who can disrupt the whole nation. I am sorry that the Solicitor-General has left the Chamber, although I realise that he has been here almost since this debate started.
I am not a lawyer or even an ex-trade union official. I am just an ordinary Member of Parliament who likes to be given some examples. If we cannot deal in hypothetical situations, at least the Government should try to apply some of their theories to strikes which have taken 723 place in the past. What was the example which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave? The power workers' dispute. What did his case rest on? Not that they had worked to rule but that there had been a breach of the rules.
I worked in the Post Office, subject to all the rules of being a civil servant and the rest, and if I had had anything to do with the Post Office dispute I would have got the workers to work to rule. They could have achieved virtually the same effect, certainly over a period of four or five weeks, as they have achieved by completely withdrawing their labour. That would have been working to rule. Would the Post Office dispute be caught up in this machinery? At what stage and how does the Department first of all decide that a situation cannot be conducive to a settlement by negotiation? Where does it get its information? Is there some kind of notification procedure whereby, when there are rumblings about a strike, the Department is informed? Who will inform'? Not the workers. The employers will inform. The first obstacle to overcome is how the Department gets to know whether and at what stage it should come into the picture. I do not think that that is necessarily a good start to the procedure. It is interposing some kind of machinery that does not make sense.
Surely the Government can give some examples. The information will come from the employers. Would the process apply to the second condition? Are the Government saying that they are not going to lay down any guidelines for the court to operate under? This is the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) was trying to make. Who will decide what isgravely injurious to the national economy"?Let us take the Ford strike as an example. It has been argued that the Ford strike has been responsible for a loss of investment in this country. Is thatgravely injurious to the national economy"?Would the Under-Secretary of State like to have a go at trying to define what isgravely injurious to the national economy"?What about the airlines? Is an airline strike "gravely injurious"? Would a domestic airline strike not be "gravely 724 injurious" whereas a strike on an international airline would be? Would it be injurious because of prestige? We have heard of the implications of Concorde and Rolls-Royce. What is meant bygravely injurious to the national economy"?What about the dustmen's strike? What about strike of sewerage workers? Would they be caught by the third condition, that of exposinga substantial number of persons to serious risk of disease"?I am just a simple back bencher. I have no responsibility for any mistakes which the Labour Government may have made—and they made some. We have to be tolerant and broadminded about these things. But I argue that the present Government are in the process of making one of the greatest mistakes in political life. Many hon. Members opposite claim that trade unionists outside do not understand the provisions of the Bill. I do not blame them if that is so because I do not understand some of the provisions. But I am at least trying to get some information from the Government to help me understand Clause 124.
So far, despite all the legal brilliance and knowledge of the Solicitor-General, I have not received any. I hope it is not too late, even at this hour, to get some information, with some examples, which we could use in convincing trade unionists that they have nothing to fear. That is the least the Government ought to be able to provide on this occasion.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Orme
I just want to underwrite what some of my hon. Friends have said about this Clause. The Solicitor-General did not answer the question: what will be the effect of imposing a cooling-off period? Will it result in the type of solution which he suggested? The only law with which to compare this is the United States law, the Taft-Hartley.
We have disputed Donovan in the past, but in this case Donovan, after examining the United States situation, where they have written evidence and documents submitted, was unanimous in coming down against having in this country the Taft-Hartley type of development. The Solicitor-General quoted paragraph 421. 725 I would ask him to look at it again. He quoted:In all but one of 24 cases in which injunctions were granted, a stand-still period was successfully imposed. In sixteen cases a settlement was reached during or shortly after the stand-still period, but in seven cases stoppages did take place or were resumed after it.The last sentence reads:There has not been a single case in which a vote has gone in favour of acceptance of the employer's latest offer.
§ The Solicitor-General
The latest offer ballot vote referred to in the last sentence is something which only takes place where a settlement has not taken place. In other words, in the 16 cases where there was a resumption of work the ballot might not arise. The last offer ballot is quite distinct from the balloting proposals which we propose in later Clauses in this Bill. It has nothing to do with our proposals. What the hon. Member has said does not invalidate the point that the cooling-off period is designed to bring about the deferment of a strike.
§ Mr. Orme
When we had the Ministry of Labour, which acted in a really conciliatory manner, settlements could be reached without the threat or imposition of a cooling-off period. That is the point we are making. In British industrial relations it will not resolve anything.
Paragraph 423 of the Donovan Report is very interesting. Incidentally, as I pointed out to the Solicitor-General, Mr. Andrew Shonfield did not dissent from this whole group of paragraphs. Paragraph 423 says:The record under the Taft-Hartley Act in the United States has been worse than the record in our country.Worse than the record in our country.We have been singularly free from strikes in recent years which would have come within the scope of a 'Taft-Hartley' kind of procedure.If we bring this rigidity into industrial relations and enforce a cooling-off period we shall find that the workers will just sit back and wait. The lesson from the United States is that very little happens 726 during the 90 days. Everyone waits for the end of the 90 days, and the employers and workers prepare for the stoppage.
§ Mr. Tom King
How can the hon. Gentleman say that very little happens, when 16 disputes were settled?
§ Mr. Orme
We are talking about conciliation, and my point is that a cooling-off period is not necessary for conciliation. In the motor car industry and the steel industry in the United States the 90 days comes to an end and there is a strike of indefinite length. If this happened in Britain, it would be injurious to the economy, the strike would be difficult to settle and industrial relations would be worsened. The British economy cannot withstand such a strike as the American economy can.
I have gone through the small type of the other Clauses and there are many things as dangerous as this, but this is one of the showpieces. Despite the fig leaf used by the Solicitor-General in trying to explain the Bill, he has not come anywhere near convincing the Committee that such a form of statutory control is necessary. We and the T.U.C. do not need such a cooling-off period. The courts, the policing, the arrest of individuals—all these are alien to British industrial life, and we want no part of it.
§ Mrs. Castle
The Solicitor-General has given us some astonishing explanations of the provisions of the Bill. I was never more taken aback than when he told us that Clause 124 and the proposal for a cooling-off periodfinds its origin in the Andrew Shonfield memorandum in the Donovan Report.I had always thought it found its origin in "Fair Deal at Work", which was based on pre-Donovan evidence. The Solicitor-General has shown great ingenuity throughout our long debates in always getting Donovan out of the argument like a rabbit out of a hat. When Donovan rejects the proposition, with great resourcefulness he says that it has its roots in Shonfield.
Since the Solicitor-General made this comment I have been glancing through my Shonfield, and I find that Andrew Shonfield did not suggest a cooling-off period. He was dealing, as Donovan was dealing, as "In Place of Strife" was 727 dealing, and as 1 thought the Government were dealing with a British situation and with the special characteristics of Britain's industrial relations problems. To that situation and those problems a cooling-off period on Taft-Hartley lines is an alien irrelevance. It sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Solicitor-General has moved us during the past weeks with his definition of the poison at the heart of British industrial society, the poison of the unofficial strike. That has been his excuse for all the other restrictions in the Bill. Suddenly we are told "Can anybody deny that the British situation demands an American-type cooling-off period?"—and this in Britain where the industrial relations problems are entirely different.
The problem in the United States mostly involves the long and protracted major official strike, whereas the Government say that our problem is the spasmodic, spontaneous, often short-lived unofficial strike.
My hon. Friend for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) was right to say that this is one of the Government's gimmicks. There have, in fact, been two major gimmicks in the Government's policy for industrial relations with which they have regaled the British public for many years. One was to make all collective agreements legally enforceable, which was expected to cure everything. It took us a long time to point out the irrelevance and unworkability of that one. The second was the cooling-off period; and now the Government are stuck with it.
I repeat that I do not underestimate the Government's resourcefulness in the matter of industrial relations. When they found that to make collective agreements legally enforceable on a voluntary basis would lead to none of them being legally enforceable, they moved on to more restrictive powers and, indeed, to a new power that was not outlined in "Fair Deal at Work"; namely, the imposition by Government initiative of procedure agreements. Therefore, we find in Clause 124 the ingredients for a far more dangerous proposition than many hon. Gentlemen have yet to realise.
Clause 124 goes very much further than the simple formula of the Taft-Hartley Act, very much further than giving the President the right to find that 728 a dispute affecting an entire industry or substantial part thereof will imperil the national health or safety. We have the alarming situation that in the United States the procedure of the Taft-Hartley cooling-off period, despite the limited definition under which it is supposed to operate, has been invoked in situations that went far wider than the narrow terms of the law. Yet here in Clause 124 are much wider powers even than Taft-Hartley. We have the words that this procedure can be invoked where there is likely to be a situationgravely injurious to the national economy",and with the national economy in the state in which it is increasingly becoming under this Government, I should have thought that opened the door very wide indeed.
I have been waiting in confident anticipation throughout this debate for the hon. and learned Gentleman, finding his back slightly to the wall on this point, in face of the facts and having been bombarded from this side of the Committee, to trundle out "In Place of Strife". I did not wait in vain. The hon. and learned Gentleman, bless his dear heart, did not disappoint me. We have had all the old resources brought in, all the minutiae of the arguments about "In Place of Strife", and it is the biggest revelation of the Government's anxiety about their own measures that they have to go to such lengths to pretend that they are the same as mine.
This evening we had even the remarkable spectacle of the Solicitor-General, introducing a major piece of legislation on which the Government [...]have spent a great deal of thought and initiative, pleading with me to spell out the terms of an interim Bill which I never even introduced to Parliament. [Interruption.] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen need not worry. I am delighted to deal with "In Place of Strife", because it is ludicrous to say that we ever produced any provision remotely like the cooling-off period formula in Clause 124. I am delighted to spend a few minutes examining the White Paper, because no document more clearly demonstrates the fundamental difference between the two sides of the Committee, even if we are in the middle of a family dispute. 729 We would have nothing to do with this tatty bit of Taft-Hartley hangover, second-hand and shop-soiled in the first place, and now presented to us by this Government in an even more ridiculous and more restrictive form. The reason why we would have nothing to do with it was that we were dealing in the White Paper with the characteristics of the British problems as we saw them. I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman was dealing with them, too. A major characteristic is the short-lived and spontaneous strike.
Of course, in the case of the major, official, constitutional dispute which may drag on for months without settlement, what is often needed is not a cooling-off period but a warming-up period in which the conciliation forces of the Government Department and the imaginativeness and efforts of both sides are brought in to resolve a dispute which may have been fermenting for a long time, where the parties have become entrenched, and where the situation will only be made worse if the dispute is put into cold storage for another 60 days. That is why we rejected the cooling-off period.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot see the difference between this proposal and a conciliation Clause designed to deal with a down-tools strike where there has been no attempt to use negotiation or conciliation machinery, it is because they have never grasped the deeply reactionary philosophy of their own Bill, and so they cannot understand the very different philosophy which has always dominated our approach, whatever disagreements there may have been on this proposal or that.
Of course the White Paper was set in the framework of an entirely different philosophy—the belief that industrial relations are human relations, not legal relations, and that if one tried to put them in a legal straitjacket one would compress the healthy growth of those human relations which must solve their own problems and differences by the development of mutual understanding and compromise, however difficult.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for contributing a piece of information for the benefit of the Secretary of State. But there is another fundamental difference between our philosophy and that of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is that we believe—this dominates and has always dominated our policy—that the prime responsibility for good industrial relations lies with management and that the more one deals with one's problems by putting a clamp on one of the parties, the unions, the more one puts a premium on bad management.
One of the remarkable characteristics of the Bill and our debate on it is that it nowhere makes a centrepoint of responsibility for good industrial relations the manager, the man who is there and who is paid and trained to do the job of creating those good relations. But we have done it: we always did it. That is why we on this side have always refused to condemn all unofficial strikes—
§ Mrs. Castle
No, I have not many minutes before the guillotine falls, and I want to tell hon. Gentlemen opposite what they do not want to know—what has always impregnated our philosophy. We have always refused to condemn all unofficial strikes. When this Government come along with a Bill with two major prongs—first, an elaborate legal framework for suppressing all unofficial strikes, and then, as though that was not enough, a great armoury of powers in Clause 124 for the cooling-off period about any type of official strike—we say to them, "What are you leaving in the way of responsibility upon management. —a cooling-off period to delay the necessity for management to retrieve the solution in a major strike, placing sanctions on unofficial strikes so that it can always be said that the troubles are due to the unions, that if only the unions can be contained the trouble will go away?"
We say that British employers are not such saints that we can declare that they are never responsible. If we give these total powers of repression for which the Government are asking we are de facto saying that British management is never 731 responsible for bad industrial situations leading to the unofficial strike.
That is why we refuse to tie the hands of the shop stewards in dealing with a shop floor situation, and that is why in "In Place of Strife" we examined the right hon. Gentleman's propositions in this Bill and rejected them one by one. We rejected in terms his central proposition that immunity from actions for inducement to commit a breach of contract of employment should be limited to registered trade unions.
One of our main reasons was that to put unofficial strike leaders at risk would mean that they could be penalised even if the strike was justified through bad management. We rejected the suggestion that the Government or some independent agency should take from employers the responsibility for negotiating good procedure agreements by imposing them by law. We rejected the idea that unions should be de-registered if they did not discipline their members who took unofficial action. All these things are in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill and they were all rejected by us because our approach is very different.
We stressed time and again that we should do nothing by legislation to impede a voluntary reform of procedures by taking the employers' responsibility from them. Time and again in this Bill hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken from management its responsibility to negotiate, consult, persuade, to win over and, therefore, to help voluntary reform. We agree that where a strike, official or unofficial, takes place after the exhaustion of agreed procedures, it would be intolerable to interfere with the strike since employees may have no other way of remedying a legitimate grievance.
What hon. Gentlemen opposite will not realise and face, because they do not want to, is that the whole of our proposition is based on that difference of approach, the difference of belief as to where the major responsibility lies, the belief that by spreading legal restrictions of this far-reaching kind what is being done is relieving management of its job. We have also said that the Government should be prepared to take responsibility for their actions and to answer directly in the House of Commons and not to 732 hide, as this Government have hidden, behind the procedures of a Clause.
When we acted as a Government we dared to answer to Parliament. We say that total discretion means total answerability. The discretion in this Clause is divided between the Secretary of State on the one hand and the courts of law on the other. This division enables the Government to get away from their answerability, and this is the purpose of this division of responsibility. The Government are abusing the pretence of legal sanctions—
§ It being Twelve o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) and the Orders [25th and 27th January], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 299, Noes 250.665
|Division No. 198]||AYES||[8.22 p.m|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Cordle, John||Gray, Hamish|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Corfield, F. V.||Green, Alan|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Cormack, Patrick||Grieve, Percy|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Costain, A. P.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Astor, John||Critchley, Julian||Grylls, Michael|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Crouch, David||Gummer, Selwyn|
|Awdry, Daniel||Crowder, F. P.||Gurden, Harold|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Curran, Charles||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Botsford, Brian||Dean, Paul||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Bell, Ronald||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Dixon, Piers||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Benyon, W.||Drayson, G. B.||Hastings, Stephen|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Havers, Michael|
|Biffen, John||Dykes, Hugh||Hawkins, Paul|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Eden, Sir John||Hay, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Boscawen, R. T.||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Emery, Peter||Hicks, Robert|
|Bowden, Andrew||Eyre, Reginald||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Farr, John||Hiley, Joseph|
|Braine, Bernard||Fell, Anthony||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Bray, Ronald||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|BrewiS, John||Fidler, Michael||Holland, Philip|
|Brinton, Sir Tatten||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Hornby, Richard|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Fookes, Miss Janet||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus,N&M)||Fortescue, Tim||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Buck, Antony||Fowler, Norman||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Fox, Marcus||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Burden, F. A.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Fry, Peter||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||James, David|
|Channon, Paul||Gardner, Edward||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gibson-Watt, David||Jessel, Toby|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Jopling, Michael.|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Goodhart, Philip||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Clegg, Walter||Goodhew, Victor||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine|
|Cockeram, Eric||Gorst, John||Kilfedder, James|
|Cooke, Robert||Gower, Raymond||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Coombs, Derek||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Cooper, A. E.|
|Kinsey, J. R.||Onslow, Cranley||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Kirk, Peter||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Steel, David|
|Kitson, Timothy||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Osborn, John||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Knox, David||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Lambton, Antony||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Stokes, John|
|Lane, David||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Paisley, Mr. Ian||Sutcliffe, John|
|Le Merchant, Spencer||Pardoe, John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Percival, Ian||Taytor,Edward Mr.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|MacArthur, Ian||Pink, R. Bonner||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Pounder, Rafton||Tebbit, Norman|
|McLaren, Martin||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Temple, John M.|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|McMaster, Stanley||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)||Raison, Timothy||Tilney, John|
|Madden, Martin||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Madel, David||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Trew, Peter|
|Maginnis, John E.||Redmond, Robert||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Marten, Neil||Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Mather, Carol||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Maude, Angus||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Waddington, David|
|Mawby, Ray||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Welder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Ridsdale, Julian||Wall, Patrick|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Walters, Dennis|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Mitchell,Lt.-Col.(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rost, Peter||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Moate, Roger||Russell, Sir Ronald||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Molyneaux, James||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Money, Ernie||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Scott, Nicholas||Wilkinson, John|
|Monro, Hector||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wolrige-Gorden, Patrick|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Sharples, Richard||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|More, Jasper||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Simeons, Charles||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Sinclair, Sir George||Younger, Hn. George|
|Mudd, David||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Murton, Oscar||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Soref, Harold||Mr. Keith Speed and|
|Neave, Airey||Spence, John||Mr. Hugh Rossi.|
|Normanton, Tom||Stainton, Keith|
|Abse, Leo||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Eadie, Alex|
|Albu, Austen||Cohen, Stanley||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Coleman, Donald||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Concannon, J. D.||Ellis, Tom|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Conlan, Bernard||English, Michael|
|Ashley, Jack||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Evans, Fred|
|Ashton, Joe||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Crawshaw, Richard||Fisher, Mrs.Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)|
|Barnes, Michael||Cronin, John||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Barnett, Joel||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Beaney, Alan||Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Cunningham, C. (Islington, S.W.)||Foley, Maurice|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dalyell, Tam||Foot, Michael|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davidson, Arthur||Ford, Ben|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Forrester, John|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Booth, Albert||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bradley, Tom||Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Deakins, Eric||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven)||Delargy, H. J.||Ginsburg, David|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch&F'bury)||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Golding, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Dempsey, James||Gourlay, Harry|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Doig, Peter||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Dormand, J. D.||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Driberg, Tom||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Dunn, James A.||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Dunnett, Jack|
|Hardy, Peter||McGuire, Michael||Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)|
|Harper, Joseph||Mackenzie, Gregor||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mackie, John||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mackintosh, John P.||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Maclennan, Robert||Roper, John|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Heffer, Eric S.||McNamara, J. Kevin||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Hilton, W. S.||MacPherson, Malcolm||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Horam, John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Short, Mrs.Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Marks, Kenneth||Sillars, James|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Marquand, David||Silverman, Julius|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Small, William|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Mayhew, Christopher||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Meacher, Michael||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hunter, Adam||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill)||Mendelson, John||Stallard, A. W.|
|Janner, Greville||Mikardo, Ian||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Millan, Bruce||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Molloy, William||Strang, Gavin|
|John, Brynmor||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Swain, Thomas|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Taverne, Dick|
|Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Murray, Ronald King||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Ogden, Eric||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||O'Halloran, Michael||Tinn, James|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||O'Malley, Brian||Tomney, Frank|
|Judd, Frank||Oram, Bert||Torney, Tom|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Orme, Stanley||Tuck, Raphael|
|Kelley, Richard||Oswald, Thomas||Urwin, T. W.|
|Kerr, Russell||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Kinnoch, Neil||Paget, R. T.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Lambie, David||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Latham, Arthur||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Wallace, George|
|Lawson, George||Pavitt, Laurie||Watkins, David|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Weitzman, David|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Pendry, Tom||Wellbeloved, James|
|Leonard, Dick||Pentland, Norman||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Perry, Ernest G.||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Whitlock, William|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Prescott, John||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Price, William (Rugby)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Probert, Arthur||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rankin, John||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|McBride, Neil||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Rhodes, Geoffrey||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McElhone, Frank||Richard, Ivor||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Mr. William Hamling.|
§ [For Division List 199 see col. 747]
§ Clause 124 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Twelve o'clock, including the Questions on an Amendment and on a Motion for a new Clause moved by a Member of the Government.