HC Deb 19 January 1971 vol 809 cc809-59

7.10 p.m.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I beg to move Amendment No. 349, in page 1, line 18, to leave out from 'associations' to end of line 20.

Not only does the Amendment seek to delete certain words from the Clause; it also demands an explanation from the Minister about the use of those words. I will do my best not to transgress on the ground which has already been covered by the Committee, but I wish at the outset to put on the record the fact that my hon. Friends and I take severe objection to some of the strictures which the Secretary of State tried to administer last night. We recall what he said on Second Reading, when he declared: Clause 1 lays down the basic purpose and principles by which we ask the whole Bill to be iudged."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 14th December, 1970; Vol. 808, c. 963.] Having made that statement, there was little point in the right hon. Gentleman indicating last night that the Clause was a general statement of principle which had been agreed throughout the country. We part company with him over this. On the one hand he wants the whole Bill to be judged by the Clause, and, on the other, when we attempt to examine the meaning behind the Clause, the right hon. Gentleman declares, in effect, "We have already judged the issue. These principles are agreed and there is no point in debating them."

I regret to have to mention the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). He made a statement similar to that made by the Minister about judging this Measure. He also said that in days gone by these words might have been part of the Preamble to the Bill, in which case it would not have been subject to debate except on Second Reading.

The Secretary of State raised objection to the inclusion of the words "voluntary basis", arguing that they were meaningless. I turn that argument on him because the words we propose to delete are meaningless except, perhaps, in a social or public opinion context. If the Government wish to use words like "responsible" and "orderly" for anything other than a public relations exercise, we should be given an explanation to show that these words are not merely being used as a gloss on "free" or as something with which to bash the trade unions.

Unfortunately, when hon. Gentlemen opposite use the words "responsible" and "orderly" in relation to trade union behaviour, they usually use them as a public relations exercise against the trade unions. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that free trade unions are not representative of those whose interests they represent?

Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)

Would the hon. Gentleman apply those terms to a union which prohibited members with a particular political persuasion from standing for office?

Mr. Douglas

Membership of a political party has very little to do with any trade union representing a body of workers.

I was asking whether the Minister thinks that some free trade unions are unrepresentative. If so, will he give examples? Can he give examples of trade unions which are irresponsible? Obviously "responsible" in this context reflects the way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite consider the national interest. There have been occasions in the history of industrial relations when, in terms of the national interest, trade unions may have acted irresponsibly, but that is in the past.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman take this point of view. He will recall that there have been many occasions when small splinter unions have been generally opposed not only by well established trade unions but also by the Labour Party. Is he now saying that small splinter unions are wholly unrepresentative or representative of those they claim to represent?

Mr. Douglas

That is not the way the Government see it. They are arguing for free and responsible trade unions within the context of what they define as the national interest. There have been occasions, especially in the 1930s, when trade unions have opposed Government policy by arguing, for instance—as they might be arguing today—for high wages or opposing reductions in wages. The conventional Government wisdom of that period was to oppose trade unions which argued for increased wages or resisted reduction in wages. When we examine the history of that period we find that it was not the conventional wisdom of the Government at that time which was right but the trade unions. What right hon. and hon. Members opposite resent on the part of trade unions is that trade unions can have a view and act as an organ of countervailing power against Governments. That is why they use the words "orderly" and "responsible".

Let me turn to the word "effective". The complaint which hon. and right hon. Members opposite are preferring against the trade unions is not that the trade unions are ineffective but that, in the context of the policy which the Government wish to impose on the nation, the unions are too effective. If one examines the statement in relation to the national interest submitted by the Treasury to the Wilberforce Tribunal, and if one examines the Chancellor's speech on 11th January, one sees that in relation to their members' interests the trade unions, from the Government's point of view, are being too effective. In looking at the words in the Bill, the Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot ask for trade unions to be responsible within their context but at the same time effective within the context of union membership.

These words are a gloss, because hon. and right hon. Members opposite are endeavouring in the Bill to put trade unions into a legal and economic context. The Government refuse, in the latter quarters of the twentieth century, to recognise that the problem facing industrial relations is not one of legality or economics, but one of sociology.

The words which the Government wish to have in the Clause add nothing in terms of meaning and in terms of elaborating the words that we wish to have in the Bill, that the trade unions should remain entirely free.

Mr. Gower

I should have thought that far from demonstrating some desire on the part of the framers of the Bill to produce some formula which would enable them to bash the unions, in the words of the hon. Gentleman, these words rather tend to reveal the care which has been given to the difficult undertaking of evolving a formula by which we can achieve the sort of trade unionism, and the sort of relationship between the trade unions and the employers' organisations, which will enable our future labour relations to be far more productive of economic advance than they have tended to be in recent years. The hon. Gentleman objects, somewhat surprisingly in some respects, to the term: … representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations between employers and workers … Take the word "representative". I should have imagined that nobody in this Committee would want to have associations of employees or of management or employers which were unrepresentative. To have such unrepresentative organisations, on either side, would be conducive to creating a sort of inertia or a complete failure to achieve any sort of relationship. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not pleading for unrepresentative organisations on any side of industry. Surely he and his colleagues would want trade unions and employers' organisations of the future to be as wholly representative as possible.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that, why is it that it is to be only workers' trade unions which shall be independent? Apparently, the employers' associations do not have to be independent. That is rather odd.

Mr. Gower

That is an interesting point, but it is not one taken up by the mover of the Amendment. We are discussing the words which the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) wishes to remove from the Bill. We are not discussing the words which he might have wished to include in the Bill.

Mr. David Mitchell

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) obviously has not read paragraph (c) which specifically states: … trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations". That seems to cover very fully the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Paget

Paragraph (c) states: The principle of free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations … The word "independent" applies to the trade unions, and not to the employers' associations. That is simply the grammar.

Mr. Gower

That is a point of some interest, but, as I said, it is not one which has been raised by the mover of the Amendment. His point was that we should delete from the Bill the words "representative, responsible and effective"—not the word "independent".

It is highly desirable, as I have said, that the bodies on either side, in all parts of industry, should be as representative as possible, and that in the same sense they should be wholly responsible bodies on either side. The best persons who participate in industrial relations in any part of industry would not wish to be associated with irresponsible bodies but would want to be associated with responsible trade unions and employers' organisations. I hope that the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment would also wish to see bodies on both sides of industry wholly responsible in this connotation.

Finally, the whole country has a deep stake in this further wording. Our whole industrial and economic future demands that we must have effective bodies for regulating relations between employers and workers. Can it be suggested in any part of the Committee that this has been the case in the recent past, or in the years since the Second World War? We have had good industrial leaders; we have had great trade union leaders; and we have had enlightened management. But unfortunately our economic and industrial history in recent years has been disfigured by the kind of unnecessary, pettifogging, silly little disputes which have hampered the job of our industry in its desperate battle to retain the solvency and prosperity of our people.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

Has not the hon. Gentleman overlooked the dominant fact in the Bill, that the Government are obtruding into the relationship between organised employers and organised workers by laying down certain financial limitations? What is the use of talking about freedom between organised employers and organised workers when we have a Bill of this kind before us?

Mr. Gower

I have been generous in giving way to the interventions. I hope that the House will not think I am wasting time by apparently taking longer than I intended. The Government are doing nothing of the kind. As my right hon. Friend has asserted on many occasions, we are merely trying to provide a reasonable legal framework in which the parties in industries shall in future operate sensibly and freely. I have yet to hear anyone say privately, whatever he may allege in public, that this has been the case in the past.

We want bodies which are effective for regulating these relationships in such a way as to ensure a greater degree of industrial peace than we have had. The country needs it desperately. We are up against the most formidable competitors in the world. We face serious economic competition from countries which are highly efficient, which have inherited different conditions, of course, and enjoyed certain advantages.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)

The hon. Gentleman has talked about industrial peace. Can he explain why, in America, with the precise type of law that he favours, 400,000 men at 4,000 plants of General Motors lost more days in one dispute than we have lost in this country in two years?

Mr. Gower

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make that important point himself. But this country less than any other can afford to let this state of affairs continue. More than any other country, more than the United States, Germany and France, we depend on our exports and imports. We are in a category quite different from that of almost all our competitors. I hope, therefore, that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept that the Bill is a sincere attempt to arrive at a reasonable formula to achieve these laudable objectives.

Mr. Paget

It appears to me that, to a considerable degree, the Solicitor-General has created his own troubles. As the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said yesterday, this sort of Clause is neither within nor without the Bill, and I doubt whether it is of any help to anyone. However, if we are to make statements of general principle, economy of words has much to recommend it.

What I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman intended to say in subsection (1)(c) is simply … the principle of free association of workers and employers for the purpose of negotiation. If he had said that, he would not have been in any trouble, and the words would have conveyed the same meaning, probably the meaning that he intended.

However, there is a sort of rococo embellishment of draftsmen by which all sorts of oddments are added, and those oddments tend to incite suspicion. For no apparent reason, one finds first a reference to free associations of workers having to be in independent trade unions, whereas those words are omitted when it comes to employers. I am sure that there is nothing sinister in the omission, but it causes one to wonder why, and it makes one suspicious.

That does not arise under this Amendment. However one reads on and comes to the words … so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies. The hon. and learned Gentleman finds himself in difficulties which were created for him by the Secretary of State. When the word "responsibly" occurred in paragraph (a), the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to accept that it meant merely "duly authorized", which is what it means here. Instead, the right hon. Gentleman said that it had to go further and bring in the public interest. If we go in for negotiations in which representatives do not represent their clients but must have regard to what the Government consider to be the public interest, we are straying into totaliarian concepts.

Sir Edward Brown (Bath)

This is an extremely interesting argument, but two cases occur to me immediately. One was in 1970; the other in 1969. In those cases, two national executives negotiated a pay rise for their organisations, but their lesser brethren on the shop floor rejected them.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)


Mr. Paget

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising those two cases, but to my mind they are too abstruse to be applied to the point that I am making, which is that if "responsible" in paragraph (c) mean "duly authorised to negotiate", no one can object. However, since the Secretary of State said that it means something else in paragraph (a) and that a representative is not free to negotiate since he has to have regard to what the Government consider to be the national interest, that would be contrary to the principles of free negotiation.

The trouble arises because of the addition of superfluous and silly words to the Clause which do not improve their meaning, and any reference back to other words which have been given different meanings raises quite unnecessary complications.

I hope that the Solicitor-General will deal with the difficulty by saying that he will look at the words again with a view to seeing whether they can be simplified. He does not need to say more than that. The principle should be the free association of workers and employers for the purpose of negotiation. Nothing else needs saying. It is quite unnecessary to hang round it all sorts of decorations which only create suspicion. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will consider what I have said.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

During the period of my enforced retirement from the House of Commons from 1966 to 1970, several interesting things have happened, not all of them to the good. As a result of one of them, we lost many of our Preambles, which is now causing some difficulty, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) pointed out.

I want first to take up a technical point on the Amendment. I am sure that it was not intended to lose the word "and". As printed on the Notice Paper, the Amendment reads … leave out from 'associations' to end of line 20. I am sure that that is not the intention and that the "and" should have remained.

An Hon. Member

It does not make any difference.

Mr. Fell

That may be the hon. Gentleman's view. However, in view of the amount of time that we shall spend discussing words on this Bill, it is not unimportant to get the words right. This happens to be one which, if the Amendment should be carried, will be lost, assuming that it is not corrected.

Every morning, people listen to the news on their radios. As often as not, they hear the latest report on the current strike. It is not surprising that people feel strongly that steps should be taken to deal with the situation. It cannot be highly controversial to say that. Therefore, it is not surprising that this Bill has been introduced.

We have an Amendment here which tries—

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

The hon. Gentleman is saying that when he switches on the radio in the mornings he hears a summary of the strikes of that day. Will he refresh our memories and list the number of strikes about which he has heard in the past seven days?

Mr. Fell

I do not want to be sidetracked. I want to make a slight contribution to this short debate on the Amendment, which I do not think is vastly important.

Up to a point at any rate, I share the view of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. The ordinary person reads that: The provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations with the following general principles, Principle (c) is the principle of free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations, so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations between employers and workers; The unbiassed person will see nothing wrong in that. But I of course take the point that people who are biassed and have a sort of persecution complex against the Government of the day will look in every line in an important Bill like this for what ghosts they can find and what damage they think will be done to their cause as a result of passing the Bill. The Opposition are right to do this; it is part of their job.

It may well be that a query can be raised about the words that the Opposition are trying to delete: … so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies …". We can see the point. Perhaps because I am not a master of words, I share the view of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. I, too, do not see the necessity for the words, and I do not know quite what they mean. [Interruption]. I am not destroying anything. I also want to know, and I am entitled to ask these questions. I believe that we have already achieved what we want without the addition of that phrase. We shall have more organised, representative and responsible bodies in all negotiations. Everybody takes that as a matter of course; it has already been stated in the Bill and everyone knows that it will happen. If the phrase were a rococo embellishment of the introduction to the Bill, no one would worry very much about it, but because it is in the Bill it seems to have caused a lot of trouble. A lot of fuss is being made about very little. I am certain that the Minister will explain exactly what is meant by … so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies …".

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)

The free association of workers in independent trade unions is for me an important principle, sufficient to stand alone in the Clause. That is why I feel that the words covered by the Amendment have become unnecessary.

I know that many of my hon. Friends will be very sceptical about what hon. Members opposite think about the term "representative". Hon. Members opposite probably think of a representative trade union as something like the Foremen and Staff Mutual Benefit Society or the staff associations in our principal banks and many other companies with staff workers.

As to the word "responsible", we ask, "Responsible to whom and to what?" When the Secretary of State was challenged on the word yesterday he failed to give a satisfactory definition.

The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) has said that we are making up ghosts, but it is nothing like that. The Amendment is based on genuine fears. We feel that the latter part of the Clause is in essence an attack on the freedom of the trade union movement.

[Mr. HAROLD GURDEN in the Chair]

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)

I am not wedded to economy of words, nor am I a lover of rococo embellishments. Much has been made about government at a stroke, but there are some people who would like to have government by a strike. The hon. Gentleman asks, "Responsible to whom?" I read the Bill as saying not "responsible to" but "responsible for". Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it in some way denigrates responsible trade unions and their leadership to say that they should be … so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations … between the two sides? If he would delete the words, is he saying that he does not want them to be so described?

Mr. Hughes

My point was based on that raised by the hon. Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown), who did not seem to understand that the rank and file of a particular trade union could overrule a decision made by higher executives.

I regard the leading trade unions in this country as essentially responsible. I would not put in the same category as the hon. Gentleman, perhaps, the organisations to which I have referred like the Foremen and Staff Mutual Benefit Society.

We should retain free and independent trade unions because they are the key to the voluntary system of industrial relations which has worked in this country so successfully, despite all the present misgivings, for a very long period. It is the free and independent trade unions that the Government are now so keen to try to undermine.

When the voluntary system was defended earlier in the debate, the Secretary of State referred to the remarks made as "nit-picking". That was an unfortunate expression, particularly coming from the right hon. Gentleman, because the retention of the voluntary principle is vital to the preservation of a free society. The restrictive State agencies that the Govern- ment envisage are anathema to our voluntary system. The proposal is nothing but an attempt by the Government to put the trade union movement in a legal straitjacket.

Our record in industrial relations, based on the principle of the voluntary system, is not bad at all. It is far better than that in America, from which many of the proposals in the Bill have been stolen. I should have expected a Government apparently dedicated to the principle of historic freedom to be a zealous supporter of the retention of the voluntary system, and especially a Prime Minister who on 19th June last year, the day he was appointed to his high office, said that his essential wish was to build one nation. It does not look very much like that to me today.

There is a national obsession about strikes, I think because of Britain's economic difficulties since the end of the war, with the decline of Empire and so on. Instead of tackling the fundamental problems affecting our nation, we have tended to look for scapegoats. The most popular scapegoat of all has been shop stewards and those workers who go on strike. There were some hon. Members on this side, and for that matter a right hon. Lady on our Front Bench, who contributed to that state of affairs. I very much regret that and the events culminating in the publication of "In Place of Strife". I opposed the statutory incomes policy and that document.

The Press and the mass media generally have created an atmosphere in which trade unionists tend to be regarded as social outcasts, when really they are the people who produce the wealth of the nation. It is at this moment that the Government have chosen to tilt the balance in industrial relations even more in favour of the employers. They are keeping their promise to many great monopoly concerns which line the coffers of the Tory Party and enable it to pay for its elaborate and expensive election campaigns.

Mr. Fidler

Will the hon. Gentleman show me how there is in the Clause a tilting of the balance away from the unions in favour of the employers?

Mr. Hughes

I think that my arguments have been pretty clear and to the point.

The Bill is a fulfilment of an election pledge. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has said that what we say in a General Election campaign is irrelevant. Probably that is why he increased his majority at the last General Election, but, even in a good election for the Conservative Party, in Wales it was able to win only seven out of 36 seats. Part of the hon. Gentleman's constituency is in Cardiff, and if he is there on Saturday he will see one of the most massive demonstrations against the Bill that we have had so far throughout the length and breadth of the land.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Hughes

I am just coming to the end of my remarks.

Many people will fight to retain the voluntary system of industrial relations based upon free and independent trade unions. Before this fight is finished, millions of trade unionists will be aroused and awakened to what is happening to the fundamental rights which have been won for them over the centuries.

Mr. David Mitchell

This is an extraordinary Amendment. It seeks to delete the word "representative" as defined in one of the objectives of the Bill. About 95 per cent. of our strikes are unofficial. This clearly indicates that, in terms of representing the point of view of the men on the workshop floor, there is a serious breakdown in communications. Surely hon. Members opposite wish to see built into the Bill a provision by which trade unions will be more representative than in the past.

Mr. Douglas

I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman has ever been in a strike. Nevertheless, surely he recognises that men do not come out on strike for nothing and that strikes blow up for a whole lot of reasons. The feelings of the men when they come out on strike congeal around a whole lot of grievances which are related to industrial practices and have little to do with their representation. Indeed, it has nothing to do with representation, but the hon. Member is using the word as a synonym for authority and order.

Mr. Mitchell

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to apply that thought to some of the more recent prolonged disputes in which it was clear that there had been a breakdown in communication between the trade union leadership and the men on the workshop floor.

The second extraordinary point about the Amendment is that it seeks to delete the word "responsible". Not long ago in this Chamber I heard an ex-Minister on the benches opposite referring to having made agreements on behalf of his trade union with employers which meant one thing to the employers and a totally different thing to the union. I have not heard a more irresponsible approach to the conduct of industrial relations and the making of collective bargaining than that admission. Therefore, we have seen reinforced in this Chamber recently the great need to ensure that we have a basis of both representation and responsibility and, indeed, effective bodies for regulating industrial relations.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Mitchell

I have already given way and I do not want to detain the Committee for long. It is extraordinary that we should be asked to delete from the Bill a proposal that trade unions should be "representative, responsible and effective", which is one of the crying needs of the present day.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

I sometimes wonder whether the Conservative Party knows anything about the trade union movement. I am getting a little fed up with being lectured by hon. Members opposite on representative democracy. From a party which has only just learned to elect its own leader instead of allowing him to emerge, this is a strange doctrine. Furthermore, bearing in mind that until recently they expected a Speaker to emerge rather than to be elected, it is a strange doctrine that they now seek to foist on to the trade union movement. I will tell them something about it.

I have been a member of a trade union for the whole of my working life. I have the honour to be a member of two trade unions. I will tell hon. Members opposite how I elect my officers. I belong to the Electrical Trades Union. It would be as well if hon. Members opposite realised just how representative the leadership of that union is.

Sir E. Brown


Mr. Stoddart

Well, we are talking about reform. The E.T.U. is a trade union which has reformed itself without any legislation and that is precisely what we are asking should happen with the trade union movement. That is why we want things done on a voluntary basis.

The members of the E.T.U. elect the leadership by direct ballot conducted by an independent organisation. I therefore elect directly my general president, my general secretary, my executive and my national officers. What could be more representative than that? This goes for most other trade unions as well, where the membership is directly concerned in electing its officers at national level and its own leadership. Now the Government seek to slander the trade unions by putting in words which have absolutely no meaning.

Sir E. Brown

I agree readily that the E.T.U. is very much reformed, but the hon. Gentleman will agree that it was only through the courts that we were able to expose what was going on in the E.T.U. It was ordinary trade unionists like myself who got together and exposed that particular racket. The hon. Gentleman knows it. We had to get to a court of law to expose the racket going on in that organisation.

Mr. Stoddart

I cannot recall the hon. Gentleman having anything to do with the reforms in the E.T.U. They were brought about, even through the courts of law, but nevertheless it was the membeirship itself which insisted that the reforms be made. We are back once again to the membership taking action and doing the job without any legislation. Indeed, in effect the hon. Gentleman is speaking against the Bill because what he is saying is that we have legislation already which can deal with abuses which might occur from time to time in the trade union movement. Let us look at the question of responsibility.

Mr. Fidler

The hon. Gentleman says that the description the Opposition propose to delete is a slander on the trade unions. I have not heard him say that he regards it as a slander on the em ployers. Again I ask whether he sees an imbalance between employers and trade unions. Can he explain whether he regards this description as a slander on the employers?

Mr. Stoddart

I do not know how the employers' organisations are organised. If the hon. Gentleman feels that they need some legislation to make them more representative, I am sure that he will say so, but I have no experience of them and, therefore, I cannot tell him.

I turn to the word "responsible". Most trade unions, like my own, are concerned to represent the interests of their members. That is their job—make no mistake about that. Their job is to help the people who pay them, and the people who pay them work on the shop floor or in the offices, or wherever it might be. In this country we have been fortunate in having a trade union movement which is prepared in doing its job nevertheless to take account of the national interest.

Who in this country has been shouting louder for better productivity and acting upon it than the trade union movement itself? Jack Jones has been calling for it; Hugh Scanlon has been calling for it; my own general secretary and general president have been calling for it, and, indeed, they have co-operated to get it in the electricity supply industry so that that industry is at the top of the productivity table. They have been acting responsibly. What have they got for it? They have been slandered and attacked at the behest of hon. Members opposite because they have acted responsibly and have got the electricity supply industry a better productivity record than any other industry in the country, thereby keeping the price to the consumer down.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)


Mr. Stoddart

I have given way enough. I want to close my remarks.

What I am seeking to show is that the trade union movement consists of a highly responsible body of people who have done more to improve the lot of all the people in this country than has any other organisation I know. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will act sensibly and responsibly and vote for the Amendment.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

I want to deal to some extent with the point raised by a number of hon. Members, not least by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—namely, an analysis of the objective and form of this Clause. There has been much historical analysis of preambles and what has happened to them. It is wrong to say that preambles have been abortive and have disappeared altogether. They have fallen out of fashion.

The objective of this Clause and of these principles is twofold. First, to lay the foundation for the matters with which the Secretary of State should deal in the code dealt with in Clause 2, and, secondly, to lay down principles to which the institutions should have regard when interpreting, construing or applying the legislation. When points are in doubt in that area, the Registrar or the Industrial Relations Court, for example, have to consider the extent to which a trade union is or is not complying with its rules. It is in this way that the institutions would have regard to the extent to which the principle which the Committee is now discussing was being promoted. That is the objective of the Clause.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton advanced some criticism of, as he put it, the rococo extravagance of language in this modest little subsection, criticism which I regard as particularly misplaced. He asked a specific question about the function of the word "independent" and questioned why it was applied to trade unions and not to employers' associations. The answer is that at the relevant point in the Bill, a trade union, in order to qualify for registration, has to be independent whereas an employers' association has not, and the reason for that—this meets the point made by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes)—is to ensure that the trade unions are indeed independent and that bodies like the Foremen and Staff Mutual Benefit Society would not so qualify. Staff associations would have to demonstrate that they were free from employer domination before they could qualify as independent trade unions.

We have not yet had it suggested that employers' associations are at immediate risk of worker domination, but, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton thought that the word "independent" ought to be attached to that aspect of the matter, no doubt the question could be considered afresh. The phraseology here is, in fact, an illustration of the economy of language which we have tried to use.

The objective of the words against which the Amendment is directed, namely, the principle of free association in independent trade unions and associations, is to be attached to the concept that those bodies should be so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations". It is worth bearing in mind that in the last Government's published Bill, the whole of Part VI, running to about two and a quarter pages, dealing with the Trade Union Development Scheme—which had no particular friends on either side of the House—was designed to assist unions in formulating proposals for measures of development with a view to securing improvements in efficiency, and assisting them in carrying out such proposals". All that is paraphrased in the present subsection by the simple word "effective" I dare say that the objective expressed in the word "effective" here is much in line with the objective which the last Government had in mind but which they expressed in as many Clauses in Part VI of their last Bill as there are words in this paragraph. If it be said that we are putting before the Committee a rococo provision, I can only say that the corresponding Part of the last Bill was a rococo revival revisited.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman identify exactly the passage to which he is referring in the previous Bill?

The Solicitor-General

The whole of Part VI, the Trade Union Development Scheme. I was reading from Clause 64(1) (b). the first of the six Clauses dealing with that.

Mr. Walker

That was never before the House.

The Solicitor-General

No, and it is not before the Committee now, but it was what the last Government saw fit to bring to the light of day, as opposed to other provisions which were under consideration, in various stages of gestation and abortion, in "In Place of Strife". So one may, presumably, attach some importance to it.

Mr. Walker

I am sorry to keep bobbing up and down, but I am trying to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. Is he suggesting that the form of words in the present Bill follows the form of words used in my right hon. Friend's Bill in 1970? If so, would he put his finger on the precise point? In response to what he has said so far, I have tried to find it, but I cannot.

The Solicitor-General

May I deal with the substantive points on the four effective words here with which the Amendment deals and answer the hon. Gentleman in that way? The words here are: so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective". The function of the words "so organized" is to acknowledge that in trade unions and employers' associations organisation is a matter of importance. One aspect of the matter is that such organisation should be effective. That was the point to which Clause 64(1) (b) of the last Government's Bill was directed- … proposals for measures of development with a view to securing improvements in efficiency"— and so on. That is the first point I am making. The more general point is that it must be right for one of the principles set down at this point in the Bill to have regard to these three aspects, namely, that organisations and unions should be representative, should be responsible, and should be effective.

The merit and importance of "representative", for example, is that a union which is being effectively representative will avoid the difficulties of shop-floor repudiation of negotiated deals.

Mr. Douglas


8.15 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

Again, to be representative, a union must be effective and capable of taking up grievances of the kind to which the hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) referred in one of his interventions. That is one of the aspirations, and that is what "representative" is designed to identify.

Mr. Orme

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman advocating that members of a trade union have, or should have, no right to repudiate any negotiations which a union might take up on behalf of its members, that the members ought not to be consulted and ought not to have the right to accept or reject? Surely, that is democracy.

The Solicitor-General

That is precisely the point I am making. A union which is effectively representative should be in touch with, aware of, and responsive to views of that kind; otherwise it would appear to be unrepresentative. The aspiration is the same.

Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)


The Solicitor-General

I must be allowed to deal with the point. An illustration of what I am putting to the Committee is the point which the Donovan Commission itself made—it is familiar to hon. Members on both sides—about the difficulty of having effective communications between the shop floor and the unions' representatives or leadership. That is the aspiration here, that it should be representative in that way.

Mr. Moyle

The Solicitor-General is talking about the need for the trade union leadership to be representative of its members, but is that what the Bill requires? Let us assume that the members of a trade union produce a set of rules designed to give them representativeness, and the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations disagrees with those rules. He has the right to overrule them or to amend them. In the ultimate, therefore, is not the effect of the Bill to say that a trade union shall be representative of the views of the Chief Registrar?

The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. I suppose that there could be a theoretical risk of the Bill producing that result if these words were to be deleted. The point is that the relevant Clauses—we have not come to them yet—about the matters with which union rules should deal and the way that certain of them should be dealt with, to which the Registrar will have regard, are designed to secure effective machinery for elections and effective participation in elections. We believe that they are designed to help unions to be representative both in themselves and in their rules.

Were there a danger of the Registrar looking at such rules and saying, "This rule may or may not comply with Clause X and I must construe it accordingly", he would say, "I must remember that the function which I am discharging is to see that the unions are representative, responsible and effective, so I must lean in the direction of a construction which will see that it is representative".

Mr. Douglas


The Solicitor-General

I do not want to give way too often.

Mr. Douglas

This is an important point. It seems to me that the Solicitor-General is construing these words in such a way as to indicate that the reason why the Government persist in their retention is that they give some support to the way in which the Secretary of State will draw up his code. Will he draw up his code along the lines which the Solicitor-General has been depicting? This should be made clear, because, if he does that, he will be embarking upon an extremely dangerous course.

The Solicitor-General

I do not wish to be disrespectful, but, having tried to follow hon. Gentlemen opposite as best I can, I see different currents of criticism directed at the formulations which the Committee is now discussing. On the one hand, it is said that these are such impeccably right propositions that they are—to borrow the phrase used by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) yesterday—no more than a fig-leaf of respectability for disreputable intentions. That is one argument, that they are too good to be true. The other is that, construed in the most sinister way, they are very menacing words.

I put it to the Committee that the aspiration that unions and associations should be "representative, responsible and effective" is no more than the common ground among almost all informed critics on both sides of the debate who have looked at this part of the problem. I do not want to be tendentious.

Mr. Christopher Woodhouse (Oxford)

The Solicitor-General has explained how the Bill will seek to ensure that the trade unions are representative. Can he explain how it will seek to ensure that employers' associations are representative?

The Solicitor-General

It will do so within the corresponding provisions of Part IV of the Bill which are applied by Clause 65 to employers' associations. The same principles apply. It may be that the question will arise in a different form and that is why we have this general proposition because, as the Committee will appreciate, there will be different structures.

I think that I have dealt with "representative" and "organization". "Responsible" is a word upon which several hon. Members have touched. It is not a word which anyone would criticise in saying that organisations, unions or employers' associations should conduct their affairs with responsibility, not irresponsibly, having regard to the great importance and effectiveness of trade unions and employers' associations in any area, particularly in good industrial relations with which the legislation is concerned.

Again I do not want to be tendentious but if I may take an example from the paragraphs in "In Place of Strife"—[Interruption.]—I apologise for troubling hon. Members opposite by referring to that document. I will do it shortly. A good illustration is the section in that document dealing with the necessity in the last resort for the Secretary of State, as it was then, perhaps to make an order to require a union which used coercive action against the implementation of the C.I.R. recommendations on recognition to accept the recommendations. It is when one comes to the argument set out in paragraph 60 identifying the extent to which it is possible for a union, as for any individual or employer or association to act irresponsibly, that one comes up against the question of responsibility.

Mr. Harold Walker

The hon. and learned Gentleman will not get away with this. Surely he acknowledges that there is a world of difference between the language used in a White Paper and that which has to be used in a Statute and subsequently interpreted by the courts according to the letter of the law. He surely acknowledges that it is unfair to try to draw comparisons between the language he is using in the Bill and the language used in the White Paper. He has twice tried to do this, unfairly, improperly, even misleading the Committee, making comparisons between the language used in the earlier Bill, when there was no common ground, and now comparing what was in the White Paper with the wording in his own Bill. He must accept that if he does this we shall keep on interrupting him to ensure that he gets it right.

The Solicitor-General

I hope that I am getting it right. I am not comparing the language of "In Place of Strife". I seek not the word "responsible" in paragraph 60 although I daresay that I could find it. I am not concerned to make that kind of argument. I do not wish to mislead the Committee. What I am saying is that these three words "representative", "responsible" and "effective" identify concepts which are common ground to the diagnosis made in a document like "In Place of Strife" and in Donovan, and it has not been suggested by anyone that it is an unworthy or wrong aspiration for trade unions or employers' associations to be "representative, responsible and effective".

Part of the argument, which is the ambiguity that has to be met, is that the words are unnecessary because such organisations are "representative, responsible and effective". It is only to make sure that those propositions are had regard to by the Secretary of State and the agencies when they come to be interpreted that these words are here and are an important part of the Bill. It is not something to be criticised that legislation which comes before the House and is considered here in Committee contains words which are simple and straightforward. Just as in many other situations, standards have to be assessed according to whether something is or is not reasonable. These are the objectives, part of the principle underlying the purpose of the Bill. It is on this basis that I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment, on the basis that no case has been made in support of the elimination of these words, in principle or in detail.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

The Solicitor-General put his finger on the argument when he said that the main point was that the general principles outlined in the Bill will be considered by the various courts established by it. The meaning of the words in the general principles of the Bill become of great importance. We would all be happy if everyone put precisely the same meaning on words, but we know that they do not. We know that lawyers—we have had many examples in the debate—have interpreted a number of words in different ways. If that is the position it is understandable that the Opposition does not want further to confuse an already confusing situation.

That is precisely what would happen it the words in the Bill are left. That is the key to the argument. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that Preambles had gone out of fashion. I wonder why and I wonder why in this particular Bill. I suspect that the basic reason in this case is because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen wanted to slip through particular ideas and concepts without spelling them out in any detail.

8.30 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman would be wise to ask his back-bench friends to refrain from making lengthy speeches in this Committee, not because hon. Members can be accused of filibustering but because every time some hon. Gentlemen open their mouths they indicate how anti-union they are. Several speeches have been made this evening which show the thinking of some hon. Gentlemen on trade unions. One hon. Gentleman said that what some of the Opposition wanted was government by strikes. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) said that every time the housewife switches on her wireless in the morning she hears news of a strike, and she thinks that something should be done. That is why the Bill has been introduced. The Government think that it is electorally popular. It does not matter what the Bill does, it does not matter if it is totally irrelevant to industrial relations. The Government just think that they must do something. The right hon. Gentleman would be wise to advise his hon. Friends not to make speeches of this sort, although we welcome them. The more speeches of that sort there are, the more people will understand what is behind the Bill and see that it will not improve industrial relations.

Mr. John Page


The Temporary Chairman

Unless the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) gives way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.

Mr. Heffer

I am not discourteous to hon. Gentlemen. I regularly give way, but we are trying to make progress and I hope that there will not be too many interruptions.

The view of my hon. Friends is that the Electrical Trades Union acted completely responsibly from the beginning to the end of the power workers' dispute, which is not finished even now. An hon. Gentleman opposite took part in a radio programme with me in which he said that the electrical workers were acting totally irresponsibly. He said that it was like a person standing next to someone who was on a kidney machine and saying to that person. "If you do not give me your wallet I will pull out the plug." That is the attitude which is adopted by some hon. Gentlemen. Who was making irresponsible statements? If a dispute is taken to a court of law what interpretation will be put on who was or was not responsible? It is open to interpretation.

Mr. John Page


Mr. Heffer

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, as it is he to whom I have been referring.

Mr. Page

On that occasion the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was supporting the Electrical Trades Union in its fervent refusal to go to arbitration, although arbitration was included in the recent agreement. It was

the union's refusal to take the constitutional steps which made me say what I did, and I do not regret it.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) said on 15th April that the unnecessary and damaging disputes of which we have seen all too many recently are totally incompatible with our economic objectives. Does the hon. Member for Walton agree with that?

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman proves the point I am making. It is a question of the interpretation of responsibility. After almost a year of negotiation the Electrical Trades Union reached a state where it felt it was necessary to take official—not unofficial—and responsible action—

Mr. Page

Irresponsible action.

Mr. Heffer

Irresponsible to the hon. Gentleman and, therefore, if it had come before a court the argument would have been on whether the action was responsible or irresponsible. My hon. Friends feel that it is essential that these words should be excluded. The principle of free association of workers and independent trade unions and of employers and employers' associations is sufficient. Once anything is added all sorts of interpretations are possible and the situation becomes confused. I therefore ask my hon. Friends to vote for the elimination of these words.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 243, Noes 279.

Eadie, Alex Kelley, Richard Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Edelman, Maurice Kinnock, Neil Prescott, John
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lambie, David Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lamond, James Price, William (Rugby)
Ellis, Tom Latham, Arthur Probert, Arthur
English, Michael Lawson, George Rankin, John
Evans, Fred Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Faulds, Andrew Leonard, Dick Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lestor, Miss Joan Rhodes, Geoffrey
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Feltcher, Ted (Darlington) Lomas, Kenneth Robertson, John (Paisley)
Foley, Maurice Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Foot, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Ford, Ben McBride, Neil Roper, John
Forrester, John McCann, John Rose, Paul B.
Fraser, John (Norwood) McCartney, Hugh Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Freeson, Reginald McElhone, Frank Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Galpern, Sir Myer McGuire, Michael Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Garrett, W. E. Mackenzie, Gregor Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Gilbert, Dr. John Mackie, John Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Ginsburg, David Mackintosh, John P. Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Golding, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Gourlay, Harry McNamara, J. Kevin Sillars, James
Grant, George (Morpeth) Silverman, Julius
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) MacPherson, Malcolm Small, William
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Spearing, Nigel
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Marks, Kenneth Spriggs, Leslie
Hamling, William Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Stallard, A. W.
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Hardy, Peter Meacher, Michael Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Harper, Joseph Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Strang, Gavin
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mendelson, John Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Mikardo, Ian Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Millan, Bruce Swain, Thomas
Heffer, Eric S. Milne, Edward (Blyth) Taverne, Dick
Hilton, W. S. Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Horam, John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Thomas, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Moyle, Roland Tinn, James
Huckfield, Leslie Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Tomney, Frank
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Murray, Ronald King Urwin, T. W.
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Ogden, Eric Varley, Eric G.
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) O'Halloran, Michael Wainwright, Edwin
Hughes, Roy (Newport) O'Malley, Brian Walden, Brian (B'm'h'm, All Saints)
Hunter, Adam Oram, Bert Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Orbach, Maurice Wallace, George
Janner, Greville Orme, Stanley Watkins, David
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oswald, Thomas Weitzman, David
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Wellbeloved, James
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Padley, Walter White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
John, Brynmor Paget, R. T. Whitehead, Phillip
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Palmer, Arthur Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pavitt, Laurie Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Pendry, Tom TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Pentland, Norman Mr. Alan Fitch and
Kaufman, Gerald Perry, Ernest G. Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Adley, Robert Body, Richard Cary, Sir Robert
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Boscawen, Robert Chapman, Sydney
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Bossom, Sir Clive Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Bowden, Andrew Chichester-Clark, R.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Churchill, W. S.
Astor, John Braine, Bernard Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Atkins, Humphery Bray, Ronald Clegg, Walter
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Brewis, John Cockeram, Eric
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Brinton, Sir Tatton Coombs, Derek
Balniel, Lord Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Cordle, John
Batsford, Brian Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Cormack, Patrick
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bruce-Gardyne, J. Costain, A. P.
Bell, Ronald Bryan, Paul Critchley, Julian
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Crowder, F. P.
Benyon, W. Buck, Antony Curran, Charles
Berry, Hn. Anthony Bullus, Eir Eric Dalkeith, Earl of
Biffen, John Burden, F. A. Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)
Biggs-Davison, John Butler, Adam (Bosworth) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Blaker, Peter Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Carlisle, Mark Dean, Paul
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kimball, Marcus Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Dixon, Piers King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Redmond, Robert
Drayson, G. B. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Reed, Laurances (Bolton, E.)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kinsey, J. R. Rees, Peter (Dover)
Dykes, Hugh Kirk, Peter Rees-Davies, W. R.
Eden, Sir John Knight, Mrs. Jill Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knox, David Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lane, David Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Ridsdale, Julian
Eyre, Reginald Le Marchant, Spencer Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Farr, John Lewis, Kennet (Rutland) Robert, Wyn (Conway)
Fell, Anthony Longden, Gilbert Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Loveridge, John Rost, Peter
Fidler, Michael McAdden, Sir Stephen Royle, Anthony
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) MacArthur, Ian Russell, Sir Ronald
Fletcer-Cooke, Charles McCrindle, R. A. Scott, Nicholas
Fookes, Miss Janet McLaren, Martin Sharples, Richard
Foster, Sir John Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Fowler, Norman McMaster, Stanley Shelton, William (Clapham)
Fox, Marcus McNair-Wilson, Michael Simeons, Charles
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Sinclair, Sir George
Fry, Peter Madden, Martin Skeet, T. H. H.
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Madel, David Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Gibson-Watt, David Maginnis, John E. Soref, Harold
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Speed, Keith
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Marten, Neil Spence, John
Glyn, Dr. Alan Mather, Carol Sproat, Iain
Goodhart, Philip Maude, Angus Stainton, Keith
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray Stanbrook, Ivor
Gorst, John Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Gower, Raymond Meyer, Sir Anthony Stodart, Anthony (Edinburg, W.)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Gray, Hamish Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Stokes, John
Green, Alan MisCampbell, Norman Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Sutctiffe, John
Grylis, Michael Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Tapsell, Peter
Gummer, Selwyn Moate, Roger Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Molyneaux, James Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Money, Ernie Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Monks, Mrs. Connie Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Monro, Hector Tebbit, Norman
Hannan, John (Exeter) Montgomery, Fergus Temple, John M.
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) More, Jasper Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Haselhurst, Alan Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Thompson, Sir Richard (Croyden, S.)
Havers, Michael Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Tilney, John
Hay, John Mudd, David Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Hayhoe, Barney Murton Oscar Trew, Peter
Heseltine, Michael Nabarro, Sir Gerald Tugendhat, Christopher
Hicks, Robert Neave, Airey Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Higgins, Terence L. Nicholls, Sir Harmar van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hiley, Joseph Normanton Tom Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Hill James (Southampton, Test) Nott, John Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Holland, Philip Onslow, Cranley Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Holt, Miss Mary Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hooson, Emlyn Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wall, Patrick
Hordern, Peter Osborn, John Ward, Dame Irene
Hornby, Richard Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Warren, Kenneth
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Page, Graham (Crosby) Weatherill, Bernard
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Pardoe, John White, Roger (Gravesend)
Hunt, John Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Wiggin, Jerry
Hutchinson, Michael Clark Percival, Ian Wilkinson, John
Iremonger, T. L. Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
James, David Pike Miss Mervyn Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Pink, R. Bonner Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Pounder, Rafton Woodnutt, Mark
Jessel, Toby Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Worsley, Marcus
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Price, David (Eastleigh) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Younger, Hn. George
Jopling, Michael Proudfoot, Wilfred
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Quennell, Miss J. M. Mr. Paul Hawkins and
Kershaw, Anthony Raison, Timothy Mr. Tim Fortescue.
Kilfedder, James Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James

[Sir ALFRED BROUGHTON in the Chair]

Mr. Heffer

I beg to move Amendment No. 350, in page 2, line 2, leave out from 'safeguards' to end of line 3.

We regard this Amendment as of some importance. The issue will be debated in greater detail at a later stage, but we must raise this question now because we are dealing with the general principles of the Bill. If we leave in the concept of unfair industrial practices we will be conceding from the start that there should be unfair industrial practices. Therefore, the Amendment, which is also concerned with general principles, is designed to remove the concept of unfair industrial practices, as defined in the Bill, whether on the part of employers or workers.

Our view is that the unfair industrial practices proposed in the Bill are totally irrelevant to assisting better industrial relations. Not only are they irrelevant, but they are basically unfair to the trade union movement.

The Bill sets out 13 or 14 unfair industrial practices which affect the trade unions, and about 16 which affect the employers. I submit that the two lots of unfair industrial practices cannot be equated, because those which would operate against the unions and the workers are basically directed against the unions, making it difficult for them to carry out legitimate trade union activities, while those which are supposedly directed against the employers are, in many cases, also directed against the workers and the trade unions, and will, therefore, assist employers against legitimate trade unionism.

I am not saying that we condone unfair dismissals, because that is part of the unfair industrial practice. That is an issue which we think must be taken separately. It is dealt with in the Bill, as amended, by the use of the term "adequate safeguards". The provisions in the Bill which we presented to the House, but which was not considered by it, were much better than those in the Bill dealing with unfair dismissals, and we believe that the question of unfair dismissals can be dealt with at the appropriate place.

It is clear that at this stage of the discussion it would not be possible for me to outline all the so-called industrial practices listed in the Bill, and again most of these will be dealt with in greater detail at the appropriate place. Nevertheless, I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to one or two of these unfair industrial practices which we consider to be of fundamental importance.

The Bill says that it will be an unfair industrial practice to induce or threaten to induce a strike to persuade an employer to discriminate against any worker or person seeking work on the ground of his membership or non-membership of a trade union. That is essentially part of the argument against the closed shop. It is also part of the argument against a 100 per cent. organised trade union shop, which is not necessarily a closed shop in the terms of one union only being involved.

There are in this country about 22¾ million full-time employees. Nearly 13 million of them are in the trade union movement, and of those about 3 million are in post-entry closed shops, and three-quarters of a million in pre-entry closed shops. If the Bill goes through unamended and makes it an unfair industrial practice to induce or threaten to induce a strike to force an employer to agree, or to continue in force, a pre-entry closed shop, it will represent a serious attack on cherished rights of the trade union movement and could lead to chaos in certain industries. It could weaken the bargaining power of many trade unions, and could even put some trade unions out of existence. There are a number of trade unions, and two or three in particular, whose very existence depends on the pre-entry closed shop.

Such so-called unfair industrial practices would deny workers the right to strike for 100 per cent. trade unionism. This is an attack on fundamental trade union rights and has nothing to do with improving or assisting industrial relations. It is not fair to the trade unions for the Government to pretend that this provision is fair and constantly to hide behind the mask of fairness.

It is interesting to note that even the United States labour laws were amended in 1959 to allow for 100 per cent. trade unionism in industries such as construction, where the closed shop had been a long-established principle. This is another reason why we say that in some respects the Bill goes further than even the United States labour laws.

These so-called unfair industrial practices—this point is linked to the last—would prevent trade unionists from taking solidarity action. It will become an unfair trade union practice for workers to carry out the blacking of goods, yet this practice and the practice of taking solidarity action are long-established fundamental principles involved in the carrying out of legitimate trade unionism.

Frequently trade unionists involved in disputes appeal to their fellow trade unionists for support. Indeed, a trade union could not hope to operate or win any battles unless it had the right to ask for this sort of support. Yet under the Bill and its unfair industrial practices provisions this fundamental right would be removed.

As for the blacking of goods, consider the situation confronting Post Office workers today, and remember they have never before in the history of their union been involved in an industrial strike. They may find that to win their battle they will have to appeal for the solidarity of the trade union movement and ask workers to refuse to handle goods which they would otherwise have been handling.

That is a perfectly legitimate trade union activity, but if this Bill is not amended the Post Office workers will, if they take that action, be acting illegally—and not in an unofficial but in an official dispute. I trust that this will be borne in mind. The balance of power in terms of unfair industrial practices is already weighted in favour of the employers. This further shift will weight it still further in their favour unless the Amendment is accepted.

It will require a battery of lawyers on both sides of industry to interpret what is and what is not an unfair industrial practice. Consider the arguments that will arise in the industrial courts on this issue. I imagine that the lawyers are already licking their lips. Perhaps lawyers on this side of the Committee could be forgiven if they wished to support the Bill because they must be aware that they will make a fortune out of it, and the trade union movement will suffer as a result.

9.0 p.m.

I will give some examples of how this will work unfairly. My first example relates to the construction industry and to the agency shop. We had this, incidentally, during the Second Reading debate, it is worth repeating. It is proposed that it would be an unfair industrial practice if workers induce or threaten to induce a strike to force an employer to introduce an agency shop within two years of a ballot in which employees rejected the agency shop. In practice, this means, for example, that at the very early stages of a construction site, the workers could be induced, or there could be some persuasion from someone, to have a ballot for an agency shop.

There may be only a handful of workers at that stage, and most of them may not be members of a trade union. They could have the vote, and perhaps that would be that the majority was not in favour of an agency shop. Following that, despite the fact that the number of workers could build up to perhaps 2,000, for two years, the workers would not be allowed to take any action, and certainly not strike action, to force an agency shop, because that would be an unfair industrial practice. That is what we mean when we say that the Bill is tilted in favour of the employers and against the workpeople.

All the airy-fairy talk and this wonderful sort of cottonwool atmosphere which has been created about the fairness of the Bill is unmasked when one looks at the realities.

Second, also in relation to the building industry, one could have a situation where the main contractor decided to erect a scaffold which was unsafe. I can assure hon. and right hon. Members that that sometimes happens in the building industry. Those who look at the statistics of people killed or injured in that industry will know precisely what I mean by unsafe scaffolding. The painters' shop steward could say to his workpeople, "We will not allow you to use that particular scaffolding because it is unsafe". That is perfectly within the rules as laid down, and nothing could happen to him. But suppose that a sub-contractor was brought on to the site and then the painters' steward made such an approach to the sub-contractor's workers. Under the Bill he would be acting illegally. It would be an unfair industrial practice, and action could be taken against that steward. That is what it means in practice, and that is the reality of the Bill.

The Amendment is absolutely necessary. The very term "unfair industrial practice" is borrowed from the Taft-Hartley Act, which refers to "unfair labour practice". In the Taft-Hartley Act there are six such practices concerning trade unions. I should like to quote from the speech made by Professor Wedderburn at the recent great meeting in London on 12th January, when he spoke about Clause 87: Two leading American professors at Yale Law School put it well when they said about the similar Taft Hartley law in the U.S.A., that curtailing secondary action makes unions 'enter the economic struggle with one hand tied'. That is precisely what the Bill does, and that is why we are opposed to this concept of unfair industrial practice. It would lay down a rigid set of conditions which are bound to be inappropriate on most occasions and are bound to be broken, and which will therefore create situations where legal action becomes possible.

We call upon the Government to accept our Amendment. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite genuinely believe in fairness, they will see the fairness of the case being put forward from this side of the House. This is not a filibustering effort. We want to argue the realities of what this provision means to trade unionists and workers. We feel that we have put forward a fair case, and we ask the Government to accept the Amendment. If for some misguided reason they do not accept it, my right hon. and hon. Friends will divide the Committee and vote for it.

Mr. Gower

I am sure that no hon. Member on this side of the Committee wants to do what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) seems to think. We have no intention of putting in this part of the Bill any provision designed to hurt individual trade unionists.

The hon. Gentleman has made his case fairly, clearly and reasonably. But perhaps for a moment he will acknowledge that the words to which he objects are attached to a provision which is of the greatest importance. The Amendment seeks to delete from the Bill the words against unfair industrial practices … The phrase is attached to the principle of freedom and security for workers. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee want to express in the Bill our attachment to the idea of safety, freedom and security for workers. That is the basis of the insertion of this paragraph.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

It is the bait.

Mr. Gower

It is not the bait, as I shall explain in a moment. Surely it would be damaging to the freedom and security of individual workers if the words were deleted.

The first freedom to which the hon. Member for Walton referred was freedom from dismissal. I am sure that he will concede at once that it is highly important for workers in any industry to have that freedom.

He went on to explain the unfairness of forcing anyone to be a member of a trade union or of a named trade union. In theory, we should all like to see 100 per cent. trade union membership. That is highly desirable. If the Clause were designed merely for the convenience of employers or the Government of the day, it would be much easier to have compulsory 100 per cent. membership. For lots of employers and many Governments, it is highly inconvenient to have a multiplicity of unions representing one industry. One of the great assets on to which German industry has perhaps stumbled because of the last world war is that the workers in certain industries are represented by single unions.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Would not it be more accurate to draw attention to the number of trade unionists in West Germany? The proportion of workers unionised is between 25 and 30 per cent. Would not that more accurately reflect the attitude of the Conservative Party to trade unions?

Mr. Gower

I would prefer to see 25 per cent. of volunteers than 100 per cent. of forced men.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

That is an Aunt Sally.

Mr. Gower

It is not an Aunt Sally. It is an important matter. We want to see 100 per cent. union membership which is gained and earned by the effectiveness and efficiency of the trade union concerned. That is excellent. Provided that a union acts effectively, efficiently and fairly, over the years it should not be too difficult for it gradually to increase its membership on the basis of its performance as a union. We do not want a state of affairs where that is a matter of compulsion. I hope that hon. Members will consider the freedom of the individual worker first. We all know the historical reason for such practices creeping in as a defence mechanism for unions which grew up in difficult conditions. In the conditions of today it is highly desirable that unions should achieve maximum membership by their effectiveness and efficiency, not by compulsion.

There is another important matter. Some eccentric people for reasons of conscience cannot undertake the duties of membership of a trade union. That may seem absurd to me and to hon. Members opposite. They may seem to us to be misguided, but I hope that we do not dismiss, their reasons.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

In my long experience of workshop practice I have never known of such people, with an elastic conscience, who have refused to take the money the unions have earned.

Mr. Gower

That is completely irrelevant. I know people who for similar reasons refuse to exercise the democratic power to vote, but they do not refuse to accept the benefits of the society in which they live. It is just as silly, but there are people who for religious reasons which we cannot understand do not wish to be trade union members. Is it right that there should be anything in the Bill which would make it possible for them to be driven out of their jobs? It would be infamous. Let us have the maximum freedom and security for the individual.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

If the freedom of the individual is involved, surely the Bill should not limit the freedom of other workers not to associate with such people?

Mr. Gower

We want a system under which every person in industry is free to join a union of his or her choice, which we hope will be the best union to represent workers in an industry. We hope that it will do the job properly and by virtue of its performance will soon attract 100 per cent. membership in that industry. We see nothing wrong in that.

Mr. Brown

There are many people in industry who just want the freedom to say, "We are fighting for the benefits in this firm. We do not associate with those who do not wish to be in the fight with us." Under the Bill they will be charged with committing an unfair industrial practice. If we are to have freedom it must be freedom for all. Therefore the Amendment is right.

Mr. Gower

But the kind of freedom the hon. Gentleman proposes is completely intolerant of the minority. I believe that all decent people, whether in trade unions or employers' organisations, would not want that kind of freedom, which is designed to suppress minority opinion. I hope that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will feel that the purpose of the Clause is to ensure, as it says, the principle of freedom and security for workers, but that is not to be achieved by gross unfairness for a minority who take a different view. Let the trade unions or employers' organisations achieve their success by efficiency. That will be good for them, for the effectiveness of their industry and the economy of the country.

The hon. Gentleman dealt finally with solidarity action. It is easy to understand why those engaged in an industrial dispute should want others to take action to support them, although those others are not parties to the dispute. But such action can be grossly unfair. I have had conversations with people who have been involved in a subsidiary dispute, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that solidarity action is not always as popular as he would have us believe, and that many people who were involved in so-called solidarity action are very unhappy indeed about it.

The Clause is designed for the freedom and security of those employed in industry without inflicting unfairness, sometimes of a very cruel kind, involving throwing people out of an industry in which they have been employed into a world in which they cannot find employment. This goes to the very basis of our democratic freedom. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend will resist the Amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

I support the Amendment so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who, like me, was engaged in the construction industry. It is most informative to learn from him that the United States had to retrace its steps on its own legislation. Those of us who have been involved in the construction industry recognise the dangers that the industry can face if the words we seek to delete are left in the Bill.

If the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) purports to be one of the torch bearers for 100 per cent. trade unionism, he and most of his hon. Friends should come right out into the open and make that clear to the country. If they did, we should not be considering the Bill now.

When we talk about a closed shop we must get things in their proper perspective. The hon. Gentleman talked about minorities being looked after. Where there is a closed shop the situation is usually that the majority of the workers on a site or in a factory want to become members of a trade union. After the majority of the members have joined a trade union, it is incumbent upon the minority, for reasons which are obvious and which I hope to prove to hon. Members opposite.

In many instances, a minority of the workers, encouraged by some unscrupulous employers, can do untold damage to the majority of the workers by carrying out practices and making decisions which are contrary to the interests of the majority of the workers in that industry or factory, whatever the case may be. The case is based also even on a Christian principle in that if, for instance, the minority are not prepared to join the majority on that basis, they should seriously consider their own situation because, in a closed shop, it is a prerequisite that, before they become employed in that factory, they either must take out a trade union card or be prepared to join a trade union.

I ask the Government to give this matter serious thought. Let them prove to us at this early stage of the proceedings that they are prepared to listen to a reasonably stated case, one which they themselves so far have said could be acceptable to them. If they show that desire at the outset, there is the distinct possibility that we on this side of the Committee will give more serious thought to some of the Amendments on the Order Paper and we might manage to make greater progress.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

The Amendment would destroy the Bill—we need make no bones about that. It seeks to remove completely the principle of fair industrial practices.

Indeed, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer) made that point. He believes that there are no answers to any of the problems we face other than at least trying to establish a series of unfair industrial practices, whether operated by employers or groups of employees. Obviously, he sincerely holds that view. I do not agree with him. I do not think that one can make anything of the Bill unless one lays down that there are certain practices which will be frowned upon and treated in a proper fashion. The Amendment would remove from the Bill any opportunity for any tribunal or forum to consider any unfair practice, whether by an employer or by a group of employees.

That would be going much too far and would remove the whole point of the Bill. That would serve the hon. Gentleman's purpose but not ours. The hon. Gentleman made one or two extremely important points. As he said, we shall probably have longer discussions on the specific industrial unfair practices later in the Bill, but he dealt with the general principle. However, he mentioned one which would obviously be an unfair industrial practice. This was the case in which a group of employees threatened direct action to coerce the employer to bring into union membership any employee in the factory who was not a member of a union. It is obvious that, if we did not make it an unfair industrial practice, the only way that that coercion would work would be if the employer gave the employee concerned the choice either of joining a union—and it might be a union which he did not particularly wish to join—or of leaving the factory, in some instances leaving the industry altogether. Therefore, it would be taking away the earlier part of the principle—that of freedom and security.

Mr. Dan Jones

Does the hon. Gentleman mean freedom or licence?

Mr. Mawby

This is a most important question. I have always made the point that, where people enjoy rights and do not exercise the responsibilities that go with them, that freedom becomes licence. That is my usual definition. I do not think that any hon. Member can put his hand on his heart and say that freedom has not become licence in certain specific cases. It is not general, never has been and probably never will be, but where there is one individual who loses his freedom and security by the action of people who have a right but do not exercise responsibility with it, then they are exercising licence and that freedom should be taken away from them.

In this case, we are trying to maintain a balance. In the past—even now—there have been threats of direct action to coerce an employer to say to an employee. "You join a union or else." Is that in the interests of the trade unions themselves? In effect, one is saying to the employer, "You are now the recruiting agent for the union. We need no longer approach young people coming into the industry to explain the benefits we have to offer if you join our union".

Mr. McBride

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point when he says that the employer becomes, in effect, the recruiting agent for the union. As there are two partners, management and men, is it not right that, where skill, status and qualification, to say nothing of the country's ultimate benefit, are involved, management in a closed shop situation should not be the sole recruiting agent for labour?

Mr. Mawby

The hon. Gentleman raises another important question. I freely acknowledge that in many factories managements will accept a full benefit card of certain craft unions as good evidence of skilled craftsmanship and as proof of apprenticeship, knowing very well that the union concerned still maintains high standards. But it does not follow that we should continue to allow a situation in which a group of people can say to the employer, "We do not care how high a man's standards of craftsmanship are or how good his bona fides are. Unless he joins our organisation, you must sack him". To say that is to take away one's own responsibility for at least "selling" the union to prospective new entrants.

Fundamentally, that way of proceeding is as much against the interests of present members of trade unions as it is against the interests of anyone else, for it means that one is on the slippery slope, and unions will no longer have to keep themselves abreast of what work-people believe they ought to obtain through membership of the union of their choice.

The words of the subsection are quite specific, to give protection against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others". Without those words, we might just as well not proceed with the Bill.

Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)

It seems to me that both the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) are basing their arguments largely on two points: first, the importance of freedom for the individual to choose his own union, and second, the importance of unions having to justify themselves to prospective members and, indeed, to compete for members.

We hear a good deal from hon. Members opposite about the great virtues of competition. It would be a logical conclusion of their argument that the restrictions on free competition among unions for membership imposed under the T.U.C. agreement, which has prevented so much industrial strife in the past, should now be removed and that unions should be allowed to compete with one another inside the same undertaking, with, perhaps, two or three unions competing in, say, the docks or the car industry. Do hon. Members want to see competition in militancy for membership?

Mr. Mawby

No. The hon. Gentleman ignores other provisions of the Bill designed to go much further along the lines of the so-called Bridlington agreement than has ever been done hitherto, designed to take into account the historical basis of the union set-up in certain industries without at the same time doing anything to bring about greater proliferation. I believe that the Bridlington agreement has done a good deal not just to prevent the proliferation of unions but to reduce their number to a workable total. We are doing nothing to create the situation suggested by the hon. Gentleman. I have never proposed any such thing, and I never should.

Mr. Tinn

It seems that the position is that this Clause gives certain freedom to the unions which the hon. Member says will not be used because the Government intend to emasculate the unions later in the Bill—

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Mawby

The hon. Gentleman does not mean it but he is trying to put words into my mouth. There is nothing in the Bill which goes anywhere near trying to emasculate any union. What it seeks to do is to ensure that there will not be a proliferation of unions, that there will not be more than one union seeking to represent a certain number of employees. We know what difficulties there have been as a result of one union poaching from another. This is designed to prevent that happening, with the members of the unions having the last word by a ballot.

The hon. Member for Walton spokeofunfairdismissal, and we must make provision for that. In many cases it is not the employer who decides on a dismissal. Under present circumstances there can be a situation in which an employee is dismissed, possibly against the wishes of the employer, because he does not fit into the pattern, because he refuses to join the union. He is just as liable to be unfairly dismissed in this way as he is because the employer does not like the colour of his hair or the look of his face.

If we are to maintain freedom from unfair dismissal we cannot accept the Amendment and we must maintain the Bill as it is, balanced and designed to bring about greater freedom to everyone in whatever part of industry they serve.

Mr. Orme

I want to underline one or two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). We note with interest that the Government appear to be encouraging their back-benchers to participate at great length in today's debate. The Solicitor-General might draw the attention of his right hon. Friend to this lest he intends making any fractious remarks similar to those he made last night.

The Solicitor-General let something slip out when he was talking about Preambles no longer being in fashion and said that the principles of the Bill were embodied in Clause 1 because they would have to be used in a court of law later. In other words, the basic principles, and no doubt these debates, will be taken into account when lawyers are deciding issues in industrial courts or elsewhere.

The Solicitor-General

On a matter of factual accuracy it was the hon. Gentleman's right hon. and noble Friend the former Lord Chancellor who was seeking to advance proposals whereby certainly preparatory documents and perhaps debates in Parliament could be taken into account by lawyers. Fortunately, lawyers are not required to have regard to what is said in this House. They look at the words of the Statute, so that the hon. Gentleman may be assured that neither his words nor mine will be taken into account.

Mr. Orme

Lawyers do not live in glass houses and there are a fair number of lawyers in the House of Commons. What would have been the preamble is now written into the Act in legal language, and this means that it will be taken into account in a court of law In talking of unfair industrial practices, my hon. Friends have mentioned closed shops and 100 per cent. trade unionism. Hon. Members opposite have been defending the rights of minorities not to be members of trade unions but have had little to say about the rights of majorities. When have these minorities ever refused an increment obtained by a trade union? The next increment to be refused will be the first.

I have worked in a shop which was 100 per cent. trade union as opposed to the closed shop. A worker did not have to have a union card before he could start, but had to give an undertaking to join a trade union if he was suitable for the work. My experience was not that the unions bullied the management but that management often came to me as the senior shop steward and asked me to find out whether the man had the basic skill to do the job and had had apprenticeship training. The management consults the trade unions on these matters. I see that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is present. He will have had a great deal of experience from the management side. Where there are proper trade union agreements between management and employees and where there is 100 per cent. trade unionism or a closed shop in the majority of cases there are reasonable industrial relations. In a shop which is partially organised or where the employer is trying to get people to work at below the normal rate and to work overtime at his behest, there is a large turnover of labour, bad workmanship and bad industrial relations.

I was in America about 12 months ago when the General Electric strike took place. This was an official dispute throughout all the G.E.C. factories in the United States, and it lasted for six months. It was supported by the trade union, which had a long industrial battle for negotiated agreements. Other unions such as the teamsters told me that they were prevented by law from taking secondary action to support the strike. If a lorry had been driven in it would have cost them tens of thousands of dollars a day in fines. My reading of that situation is that by making this an unfair industrial practice the Taft-Hartley Act prolonged that dispute over many months. If that were to take place in Britain, in our precarious economic position, we could not cope with it. We should see a shift to long official disputes which would damage British industry and the economy much more than do the disputes which now get such publicity.

At the end of the day, the only thing that will bring sanity to industrial relations is a strong trade union movement, with the employers recognising that the trade unions are here to stay and that they must negotiate on an equal basis with their workpeople so that in the 1970s workpeople will not be treated as they were in the 1920s and 1930s. Those days have gone for ever. What the trade unions object to in relation to these "unfair industrial practices" is that the actions which will become unlawful will be removed from industrial consultative discussions into a court of law. The Solicitor-General speaks of this in such nice tones that it sounds harmless, but the whole basis of industrial relations will be moved away from consultative discussions and normal day-to-day negotiations into courts of law. We cannot let the philosophy outlined in Clause 1 stand as it is without raising objection. It is important that Members on this side of the Committee should put their point of view.

Mr. McBride

Does my hon. Friend contend that in pursuing the legal definition of "unfair industrial practices" it is the Government's intention to encase the trade union movement in a cocoon of case law?

Mr. Orme

This is the obvious conclusion. We all know that Mr. George Meaney, a prominent and moderate trade union leader, has said that at the end of the day there will be more case law here than in the United States or in any other industrial nation in the world. We will move in this country from free collective bargaining to a type of law-court democracy.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

My hon. Friend knows that he has a reputation as a Left-winger and always speaks for himself or for the Left-wing trade union movement. Does he know of any trade union to the right, at the left, or in the centre as a moderate, which supports this Bill? To put it the other way, can he tell the House how many trade unions and their leaders to the right, to the left or in the centre are against the Bill?

Mrs. Peggy Fenner (Rochester and Chatham)

And against the Amendment.

Mr. Orme

I will answer my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and also the point put by the hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner). I made the point to the Secretary of State last night that the trade union movement right across the board, irrespective of its point of view, was completely opposed to this Bill. The membership is also opposed to it.

Hon. Members


Mr. Orme

Hon. Members opposite will see that by the time we have spent several weeks or months of debate in this Committee, a more articulate and educated trade union movement will exist in this country which understands more about this issue than it has ever done before. My experience and that of many of my hon. Friends is of attending packed meetings on this issue, probably the best attended meetings they have seen for years. They are being attended not by the activists, but by the rank and file who want to know the facts about the Bill and want to oppose it. The Solicitor-General might feel at the moment that he is pushing along cosily, but the situation will change in the future.

[Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair.]

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

In the matter of industrial relations, nothing so illustrates the point that we are prisoners of our past than the present debate. I sympathise with the viewpoint expressed by so many trade unionists on this side of the House with regard to the provision in the Bill relating to unfair industrial practices. The view of the trade unionist is coloured by his experience and by his past. What is regarded by a person taking a detached view as an unfair industrial practice may not appear to be unfair to a man who has struggled for years to gain recognition and improvement of conditions on the shop floor. I am ready to concede that point.

In my experience, union shops are very much better run on average than nonunion shops; the conditions are much better. It is not an invariable rule since I have known exceptions to it, but it is generally conceded that where there is 100 per cent. union membership, or a closed shop, the shop is well run and industrial relations are good.

Nevertheless, having conceded that, I believe that there are such things as unfair industrial practices. The people who impose them do not recognise that they are unfair because, as I say, they are coloured in their viewpoint. Over the years I have had to appear for and against trade unions and have been involved in situations in which, undoubtedly, anybody taking a detached view would have said that an unfair industrial practice existed. But that did not prevent genuine, honest people being unable to appreciate that such a practice, which was thought to be in the interests of the union or indeed of the employer, was unfair.

Mr. Dan Jones

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman give it as his legal opinion that in future it will be unfair for work people or shop stewards to make a legitimate approach to a non-unionist and to ask him to join the trade union?

Mr. Hooson

I would have thought not. When the Bill becomes law it will be interpreted according to the words used in the Clauses. If the words are not capable of ready interpretation, the lawyers or the judges interpreting them will look at the first Section, as it will become, "General principles."

In an exchange between the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) reference was made to Germany. The hon. Member for Bedwellty said that in West Germany trade union membership is 25 to 30 per cent. The hon. Member for Barry said that he was in favour of 100 per cent. trade unionism. It is an interesting reflection how much this country is a prisoner of its past that, with the state of trade unionism in Germany, the average German industrial worker is earning more than his opposite number here.

There are many reasons for this. One is that, because their past was shattered by the last war, the Germans had a constitutional works law introduced in 1952. They created a system of industrial relations on a different basis, with particular reference to plant bargaining and good conditions at the plant and works. This has benefited Germany all round. Nobody in this country can put his hand on his heart, having examined conditions in both countries, and say that our industrial relations over the last decade have begun to approach those of West Germany so far as the achievement of productivity and happy relations are concerned.

I put this as an illustration of the point that the debate is coloured by the experience of people in trade unions and by the anti-trade unionism attitude taken by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Experience shows that shops run in happy co-operation between management and trade unions are normally well-run. That is to be encouraged.

Mr. Kinnock


Mr. Hooson

I will give way in a few moments. I say that there are certain unfair industrial practices which trade unionists themselves can recognise as such and from which the individual must be protected.

Mr. Kinnock

I am sure that, with his intimate knowledge of industrial relations in West Germany, the hon. and learned Gentleman will want to record that much of the reason for the successful pattern of well-organised industrial relations in the Federal Republic is due largely to the fact that it was designed by British trade unionists for German trade unionists.

Mr. Hooson

The hon. Gentleman must not flatter me. I do not have intimate knowledge of German industrial affairs. I have some knowledge from reading and inquiry about them. I do not have intimate knowledge, but I understand that they had advisers from the British trade union movement, who must have given very good advice because the system has been very successful.

I come back to the argument of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I understand it, but I do not think that it will bear examination. I think that there has to be a residual power in the courts to which the individual can occasionally make his application because unfair industrial practices exist. My view is that, in a democracy, any individual is entitled to recourse eventually to some element outside the union or outside his employment to get the necessary redress—that is, to the courts. Therefore, I think that the words should remain in the Clause.

Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)

I enter the debate briefly to deal with the Amendment and its possible effect on the pre-entry closed shop practised in the coalmining industry—[Interruption.] If the Liberal Party conference could be delayed until June, so that I can be heard, no doubt I shall be able to carry on.

The mining industry is somewhat unique, and over the years there has been more malpractice in the industry than in any other in Great Britain. I say that, not with pride, but as a matter of fact. In 1926—and I must go back to that year without harking on the past and asking my dad—we came out on strike and all the other trade unions joined us. I was out for 32 weeks. I am not proud of that, but along with my dad and many others I was out for that length of time, and when we eventually applied for our jobs we were told—and I was only 15 at the time—that there were enough of our sort employed at the pit and under no circumstances would be allowed to work there. That system operated in the mining industry until 1942, when the country realised the value of the mining community and the value of the coal that was being produced from our pits.

Let us look at the function of the trade union in my industry. To do this I have again to go back historically, but this time only to 1947. The wisest thing that my trade union and the National Coal Board did in the initial stages was to agree that only certain trade unions should represent the men, both the professional men and the workers in the industry. There was an amalgamation of unions so that that could come about. There was an amalgamation between C.O.S.A., which was a strong union in its section of professionalism, and the N.U.M. which was sensibly formed in 1944. They set up a closed shop in 1944, and the N.C.B. agreed to meet the N.U.M. on behalf of the workmen, B.A.C.A.M. on behalf of the management, and N.A.C.O.D.S. on behalf of the officials.

That was a wise thing to do, because from that moment all malpractices in the industry began to diminish. This was because we were meeting new employers with a fresh outlook. We were meeting on a different scale. We were having joint consultations, which can happen only if there is a 100 per cent. closed shop in an industry. One can have consultation at its best only when there is 100 per cent. trade union membership and the various sections, represented by different unions, are recognised by the employers.

The mining industry has safety regulations which have to be obeyed by all members in the industry. These regulations could not be operated with anything less than 100 per cent. trade union membership. I say that because of my 25 years' experience as a pit negotiator, and three years' experience as an area negotiator as the vice-president of my union.

If the Clause goes through in its present form my union, which represents men in an industry which is unique by comparison with other industries of a more dispersed nature, could deteriorate very rapidly, indeed. My old pit is the biggest in the Midlands, and in 1970 it produced 1¾ million tons of coal. If one man of the 2,900 employees at that pit were not a member of my trade union he could not expect, and would not get, representation by my union.

It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.

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